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THE INTERNSHIP

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C

This reunion for “Wedding Crashers” duo Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson begins with the most common crutch in Hollywood comedies nowadays—the sing-along to an old pop song that’s supposed to connect the characters emotionally to the audience. That proves to be symptomatic of what’s wrong with “The Internship,” which also repeatedly uses references to “Flashdance” as a motivational device for its characters. It’s a lazy comedy, innocuous and inoffensive but formulaic and tired, as well as fatally overlong.

It’s also the single longest cinematic commercial for an actual business enterprise in memory—Google. When long-time watch salesmen Billy McMahon (Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Wilson) find that their company, headed by a sleazy boss (John Goodman, in another in his string of flat cameos), has abruptly folded, they’re at a loss. While Nick takes a humiliating job at the mattress store headed by his sister’s boyfriend (Will Ferrell, in an even worse cameo), Billy hatches the notion to apply for internships at Google that might lead to jobs despite their lack of technical expertise. Enrolling himself and his chum in the online University of Phoenix (the positions are available only to students), Billy persuades Nick to do a video-conference interview for the program, which leads to their acceptance, thanks to think-outside-the-box selection committee member Lyle (Josh Brener).

After their arrival at the Google complex—presented as a happy wonderland of glitz, gizmos, company-provided benefits and eager innovators—Lyle also becomes the leader of the team Billy and Nick join to compete in a contest to determine which interns will get those coveted jobs. Naturally it’s the misfit bunch—the ones nobody else wants to pair with. In addition to our heroes, it consists of crabby Stuart (Dylan O’Brien), home-schooled overachiever Yo-Yo (Tobit Raphael) and exuberant but virginal Neha (Tiya Sircar). Naturally they’re pitted against a squad headed by an obnoxious, dismissive—and nefarious—fellow, Graham (Max Minghella), whose villainy is also indicated by the fact that he has an accent. (Typically, the efforts of the myriad other teams are ignored completely.)

The plot trajectory here is utterly predictable. Initially the team will be at one another’s throats. But Billy and Nick’s social skills will lead them to bond, and after some setbacks they actually start to win some of the “challenges” against Graham’s hand-picked group. But a roadblock inevitably occurs to their personal and professional progress, sending sparkplug Billy off on a funk of depression. It’s only his return—and his sales expertise—that allow the team to score an unexpected last-minute triumph. Along the way they’ll earn the grudging admiration of Mr. Chetty (Aasif Mandvi), the internship’s stern overseer, and Nick will develop a romantic relationship with pretty Google workaholic Dana (Rose Byrne).

In contriving the episodes for this by-the-numbers scenario, Vaughn and Jared Stern don’t seem to have been worried about consistency. Billy and Nick are supposed to be pop culture masters, for instance, but for the sake of cheap laughs they’re portrayed as being totally ignorant of either the “X-Men” movies or Harry Potter’s Quidditch game. There are a few funny bits, mostly involving Brener, Mandvi and Byrne, and happily the picture avoids the coarseness so commonplace in comedies today (the nearest it comes is a visit to a pole-dance club where the big jokes deal with overindulging in tequila, coming on to lap dancers and an obligatory barroom brawl—hardly cutting-edge stuff). But Shawn Levy’s lackadaisical, permissive direction allows scenes to meander and stall, and even Vaughn’s verbal riffs and the goofy back-and-forth between him and Wilson no longer have the pizzazz they once did.

There’s also the glorification of the Google culture to contend with—a shameless shower of praise that amounts to something very much like a two-hour promotional feature. That’s probably better than using a phony, made-up firm instead, but one might have hoped for a few satirical swipes along the way. Apart from the hint of overwork by some of the staff, though, there’s nary a chink in the corporate shining armor.

“The Internship” is an attractive technical package, with the production design (Tom Meyer), art direction (Christa Munro), sets (Jan Pascale, Mayumi Konishi-Valentine and Sheila Nash) and cinematography (Jonathan Brown) all fine. But it’s a case of old goods festooned in brightly-colored wrapping that has a corporate symbol embossed on it.

FAST & FURIOUS 6

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C

“Fast and Furious 6” certainly delivers more of what fans of this muscle-car series lust after. The problem is that what most car fetishists desire is action without wit or even coherence. Happy to oblige, the filmmakers have produced a thoroughly brainless movie, though in many technical respects a well-crafted one.

One point in the movie’s favor is that, as with the last entry in the series (directed, like all the last three installments, by Justin Lin), the writers have grafted a different genre motor into the familiar franchise chassis. “Fast Five,” as it was called, was basically an “Oceans”-style heist flick, though one replete with car chases and fistfights. This time around, the model is the international spy extravaganza, though the result is less Bond or Bourne than a souped-up ensemble version of “XXX,” the 2002 saga of a brawny extreme sports star recruited by the NSA to track down a Russian terrorist.

In that flick the sullen hero was played by Vin Diesel, who pretty much repeats the turn here as Dom Toretto, the brooding racer and all-around essence of machismo who’s dominated the “Fast and Furious” universe since 2001 even when—as in the second and third installments—he was absent. The set-up is that he, along with most of his old crew, is recruited by beefy federal agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, the ex-wrestler who seems to turn up in every second action movie nowadays) to track down one Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who’s collecting components that will enable him—or anybody he sells the completed contraption to—to wipe out any nation’s defensive systems. The last item on his list is some sort of computer chip that will finish the project.

As MacGuffins go, this is a pretty lame one, but it’s only meant to serve as the occasion for a family reunion as the old gang is called together again, on promise of a full pardon for their past misdeeds, to catch the culprit. The crew includes Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), ex-cop and now best buddies with Dom, as well as husband (significant other?) of Toretto’s pregnant sister Mia (Jordana Brewster); wheel man Han (Sung Kang), from “Tokyo Drift” and succeeding F&F pictures; his squeeze Gisele (Gal Gadot); computer whiz Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges); and motormouth comic relief man Roman (Tyrese Gibson). (Missing this time around are Don Omer’s Santos and Tego Calderon’s Leo, whose quarrelsome couple routine is here basically turned over to Bridges and Gibson.) But what really gets Dom to agree to help Hobbs is the revelation that his former girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez)—who everybody thought had died at the hands of a drug-dealer in a sting orchestrated by O’Conner—appears to be alive and part of Shaw’s crew.

And so after a perfunctory opening in the Canary Islands, where Dom, Brian and Mia are enjoying the sun in an area free from danger of extradition, the action becomes a globe-trotting expedition that takes the crew to England and then a NATO base in Spain, where Owen plans the heist that will cement his coup. But of course it’s neither plot nor locale that’s the raison d’etre for the F&F movies; it’s the action set-pieces and the fights. And in these respects this entry delivers. An opening car race between O’Conner and Toretto along the winding cliffside roads of their island is good for a starter, and there’s another between Toretto and an amnesiac Letty later on that will also meet expectations. But the pieces de resistance are certainly a midsection encounter with a tank along a huge bridge in Spain and the final confrontation on a Spanish airstrip, where the gang is determined to use their vehicles—and their brawn—to stop a huge cargo plane bearing Shaw away to safety. The latter is really a masterful genre conception, intercutting between the action on the ground as the cars and trucks, along with reams of steel cable, attempt to halt the plane’s takeoff, and a series of simultaneously occurring onboard fights involving both males and females in various combinations. It’s a pity that it’s muddied by Stephen F. Windon’s blurry camerawork and spotty visual effects, with entirely too many shots opaque rather than crisp and the editing by Christian Wagner, Kelly Matsumoto and Greg D’Auria contributing to an erratic, slapdash feel. The same deficiencies apply to the bridge sequence, though to a lesser degree. The result is that what ought to be the high points of the movie instead wind up disappointingly chaotic and unclear. (Evans doesn’t even get the sort of visually operatic send-off you look forward to in shlock like this.)

Acting doesn’t much matter in a F&F movie, but one does really notice the complete absence of any here—apart from Evans, who tries to compensate for his physical diminutiveness in comparison to his co-stars with sneers and stares. Diesel is content to coast along on his impassivity and monotone line delivery, and Johnson lets his biceps do most of his work. (When these two burly guys try to face one another down at the very close, you might be reminded of the confrontation between the brontosaurus and the T-rex in “The Lost World.”) Walker, meanwhile, still seems awfully lightweight for his role—a prison-set scene in which he downs a passel of burly thugs requires a gigantic suspension of disbelief—but he must be thankful for the fact that it’s kept his career from sinking into oblivion. Rodriguez has a perpetually pained, pouty expression that suggests the discomfort a viewer might feel watching her, and Brewster is okay, despite a damsel-in-distress twist in the final reel that expands the picture to an unconscionably long 130 minutes. (That turn also requires the use of one of the hoariest devices in action-movie plotting, involving Hobbs’ partner, played by Gina Carano. It had whiskers long before it was employed in yet another recent actioner, “The Last Stand.”) Everybody else does what’s demanded, with laid-back Bridges coming off best and Gibson—forced to do a fast-talking routine that has a more than a whiff of inner-city stereotype to it—worst, though Kang’s amateurishness is, as usual, a distraction. Except for the vagaries of camerawork, editing and effects in the big action sequences, “Fast & Furious 6” is technically accomplished, with widescreen lensing that takes advantage of the often impressive locations.

And despite its inordinate length, series fans will want to stick around for the movie’s post-credit teaser, which both ties the plot in with that of “Tokyo Drift” (made, it now appears, way out of chronological sequence) and points toward an inevitable part seven co-starring—no, I won’t spoil the surprise.