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The Internship & The Purge

June 13, 2013

The Internship (* ½)

We all know about product placement in films, but The Internship appears to me to be the first time I’ve seen an entire film serve as an advertisement for a particular brand or product. What we basically have here is a two hour commercial for the search engine Google, as the two main characters in the film—perpetual screw ups on the back side of forty—get themselves an internship at the company, affording the filmmakers multiple opportunities to tout the wonderful world of Google. Since The Internship is supposed to be a comedy, I might be forgiving if the film had any laughs or plot points that weren’t telegraphed miles in advance but that isn’t the case. To put it another way, you know you’re in trouble when a movie opens with Vince Vaughn doing a sing along to that dreadfully overplayed Alanis Morissette song Ironic, a song that wasn’t that great to begin with and that nearly twenty years of overplay have done no favors. The film is strictly downhill from there, with a few mild chuckles to be had during the pic’s torturously long, 119 minute running time and not much else.

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn have been doing the man-child thing for too many years.

Vince Vaughn & Owen Wilson in The Internship

In terms of their performance, that’s pretty much what they’re doing here yet again and it really feels old hat more than usual. The film opens with the duo, who work as salesmen, getting a pink slip from their boss (John Goodman). Vaughn’s character comes up with the brilliant idea to Google the word Google, and in two shakes of a lamb’s tail has a plan for he and the Wilson character to intern at the company, in spite of the fact that the twosome appear to be just south of fifty years of age. Later, their age will serve as the basis of many lame jokes to be uttered by their inexperienced, twentysomething counterparts, complete with punchlines to make the audience groan.,

The object of the Google internship game—at least in the film—appears to be that once the interns are divided into teams, one team will find themselves with full time employment after all of their assigned tasks have been successfully achieved. I’ll give you a kewpie doll if you can’t figure out which one wins the golden prize.

As far as the supporting characters go, there aren’t any really worth mentioning. Certainly not the youngsters who make up the rest of Vaughn/Wilson’s intern team nor a scheming overachiever played by Max Minghella, who is so broadly written/played that he just grates on the nerves. Even a budding romance between Wilson’s character and an overworked Google employee played by Rose Byrne—the type of caricature who wears glasses with clear lenses to give the impression that she’s smart—feels forced. The Internship gets a slightly higher rating than no stars simply because I did chuckle a time or two but is that really any reason to really pony up your hard earned coinage to watch a Google commercial? I think not. Go to You Tube instead where you’ll find a surplus of them and save the money.

The Purge (**)

If you’ve seen the last thirty minutes of director Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 classic Straw Dogs, or its 2011 remake, you’ve pretty much seen the new suspense film The Purge—you just don’t know it yet. The only difference being that this film takes the climax of Straw Dogs and retrofits it with a subplot about how things have gotten so bad in the US that one day a month Americans are given a day to commit crimes of any kind with no consequences, thus purging the system of a certain number of its citizens. Of course The Purge isn’t smart or sophisticated enough to leave in Peckinpah’s larger statements about the effects of violence on society, observations which made Straw Dogs pack such an emotional wallop and that this film could have benefitted from. That The Purge comes across as a dumbed down retread of that seminal Peckinpah film should come as no surprise, especially since it’s a product of director Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company. They’ve been in the business of churning out watered down, uninspired horror movie remakes for quite some time so this one fits neatly alongside the rest of the company’s lackluster product.

Ethan Hawke, an actor whose work and on-screen presence I generally admire, tries to rise above the mediocrity of the material in his portrayal of James Sandin so the fault doesn’t lie with him. James sells home security systems for a living.

Ethan Hawke in The Purge

This of course comes in handy when the once a year event known as ‘the purge’ rolls around like clockwork. James, his wife, Mary, and two children—teenaged daughter, Zoey, and adolescent son, Charlie—burrow themselves inside their upscale home as they always do for the yearly event when Charlie disarms the alarm system and lets a badly beaten stranger into their home. This leads to repercussions when the roving gang that is attempting to kill the man invades James’ home, forcing him to defend his family in whatever way possible.

There are a few stabs—no pun intended—at injecting some life into the material, particularly in a sequence where James is faced with the moral dilemma of defending himself early in the pic from his daughter Zoe’s boyfriend, who clearly wants dear old dad out of the way. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough moments like this to keep the doldrums from setting in when The Purge starts to tread its all too familiar ground. My advice is to rent either version of Straw Dogs and skip this whole half-baked endeavor.

 Both of these films are playing at the Carmike in Hickory and at other area theaters.

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