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Searching for the funny

The Internship
DIRECTED BY: Shaun Levy
STARRING: Vince Vaughn, Owen
Wilson, Rose Byrne
CERT: 12A

Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) are successful watch salesmen. When their boss (John Goodman) informs them their services are no longer required – the watch, apparently, has been relegated to history by the smart phone – the boys find themselves in the employment wilderness.
While Googling their work options, Billy hits upon the notion of applying to work at… Google. I suppose it could happen.

Though it’s not really work, it’s an internship. To get the job, they’ll have to compete against the finest nerds on the planet, in what they aptly call “a mental Hunger Games”. If they do manage to win and secure themselves employment, well, it won’t really be like work anyway. Because everything about the Google campus – the nap pods, the free food, the free bikes – is just so, like, awesome.

First, however, they’ll have to get past their rivals, a bunch of obnoxious supernerds led by British nerd villain Graham (Max Minghella). While they’re at it, they’ll be learning from, and teaching a few valuable life lessons to their own team of geeks (Dylan O’Brien, Tobit Raphael, Tiya Sircar), the kind of characters you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever watched The Big Bang Theory. Naturally, these lessons include the art of slamming tequila in a strip club. Cos, you know, nerds gotta learn how to party.

Not that geeks can’t be cute, as Nick discovers when he meets Google executive Dana (Byrne). She’s the bespectacled, Type-A go-getter, all work and no play. Nothing a bit of goofy slacker charm can’t change. Cos, hey, nerds gotta learn to relax.

But getting that big Google job is the thing. It might be a tad easier if the lads weren’t so old and out of touch with the digital age that they can’t use the word “online” properly. Indeed, these guys are such dinosaurs, they’ve never heard of the X-Men and they don’t know what Quidditch is. For the boys, popular culture ended in the 1980s, round about the time Flashdance was released.

And there’s one of the problems with this movie – you just can’t buy the notion that these guys are that clueless. And if you can’t buy the main idea, then the movie doesn’t work.

Another obvious issue is that, whatever way you look at it, The Internship is basically a two-hour-long recruitment commercial for Google. That’s just a bit too creepy.

Still, you might be able to ignore all of that if the film did what a comedy is supposed to do. The biggest problem here is that The Internship just isn’t very funny. Actually, it’s hardly ever funny at all, despite the enduring likability of its leading men and the presence of the usually reliable Asif Mandvi as Google instructor, Mr Chetty.

The writing (by Vaughn and Jared Stern) is just too weak and predictable, always aiming for the safe, easy gag and director Shaun Levy (Night at the Museum) seems to imagine that just sitting back and letting Vaughn and Wilson jabber their way through it will do the trick. Obviously not.

Not for the first time in recent comedies, a cameo by Will Ferrell is one of the few comic highlights.

This is the End
DIRECTED BY: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
STARRING: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill
CERT: 16

It’s the Apocalypse and not a zombie in sight. Not aliens, either, if you can imagine that. Things might be looking up.

In This is the End, the end arrives the old-fashioned way, straight from the Book of Revelation. Los Angeles is the new Sodom and Gomorrah and God has clearly had enough. The first ones to go? The celebrities.

They’ve gathered for a house-warming party at James Franco’s new pad and you can’t swing a black cat without hitting a famous face – Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Rihanna, Emma Watson, Jason Segel, just for starters – all playing caricatures of themselves. Or not, as in the case of Michael Cera, the coke-fuelled wild animal of the party.

The good times crash to a halt when the ground opens up and several A-list stars plummet into the bowels of Hell. With the righteous raptured to Heaven and the sinners left behind, the remaining assortment of Hollywood’s finest have barricaded themselves indoors with survival supplies consisting mostly of drugs and strong drink. It’s no way to face the hounds of Hades.

This is the End is a massive ego trip and a grossly vulgar, obnoxious and willfully offensive one at that. Of all the needlessly crude comedies that have emerged since the arrival of Judd Apatow and his cronies, this is probably the crudest of them all.

Unlike most of the rest, though, This is the End is funny in the midst of the mess. Often, it’s very funny indeed. Occasionally, it’s even downright hilarious.

It’s the apocalypse as it should be. But I’m sure the zombies will be back.

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