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Originally published June 6, 2013 at 4:05 PM | Page modified June 6, 2013 at 4:16 PM

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‘The Internship’: Google movie searches for laughs

A review of “The Internship,” which stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as a pair of middle-age misfits at Google.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 2 stars

‘The Internship,’ with Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne, Max Minghella, Josh Brener, Josh Gad, Dylan O’Brien, Tobit Raphael, Neha Sircar. Directed by Shawn Levy, from a screenplay by Jared Stern. 119 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexuality, some crude humor, partying and language. Several theaters.

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It’s not a terrible idea for a movie: Two 40-something guys (Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson), who’ve just lost their jobs as watch salesmen (“Watches are obsolete, and so are you,” says their boss), talk their way into an internship at Google. But Shawn Levy’s “The Internship” gets lost somewhere along the way in a sea of “Flashdance” references and warm-and fuzzy high-tech high jinks; this movie isn’t so much Google as goo.

Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson), after verbally tap-dancing their way through an online interview at a public library (it’s the movie’s funniest scene, with Wilson goofily riffing on “nickel-sized men”), show up at Google’s California campus, stunned by the palatial grounds, the high-tech quirks, the free food — and how very much younger nearly everybody else is. As interns, they begin a series of challenges (a “mental Hunger Games” as Nick calls it), designed to win full-time jobs for the ultimate victors. Along the way, they make friends, find love interests and learn that Google is the very best place to work in the entire world.

That’s the none-too-subtle message of the film, which often plays like a commercial for Google. (Some of the external scenes were shot on Google’s campus, and the interior scenes, though filmed elsewhere, are carefully reconstructed copies of Google’s actual offices, primary colors and all.) And Levy’s so busy showing us the riderless cars and cheery Google bikes, he forgets to have his movie make any sense. Why would Billy repeatedly say “on the line” rather than “online”? Why would these guys know nothing whatsoever of Harry Potter (there’s a sort of Google-y Quidditch game played, and I don’t want to know whether this is a real thing) or “X-Men,” yet make knowledgeable “Hunger Games” references? How does Nick, seemingly overnight, become a software expert?

None of this would matter if the movie was full of genuine laughs, but it’s just sporadically amusing. “The Internship” is good-humored, warmhearted and only occasionally resorts to tastelessness, and that alone vaults it above numerous summer comedies. But love letters — even those written to high-tech companies — are rarely truly funny.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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