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‘The Internship,’ Formula Comedy with No Future

Is it possible to build a long and profitable career in comedy without making a single very good movie, or even displaying an obvious sense of humor? Shawn Levy seems to be living the dream.

The cruddy kid comedy “Big Fat Liar,” the unwanted remakes of “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “The Pink Panther,” two overstuffed yet underwritten “Night at the Museum” flicks — those are the credits, folks.

Yet the movies attract some stars — Steve Martin, Ben Stiller, Paul Giamatti. They often make money and spawn sequels. And, because of that, Levy stays employed, and busy.

“The Internship,” the latest, takes Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson and casts them as a couple of glad-handing salesmen buddies who are both fired — on the same day. They have no immediate prospects, and it seems few marketable skills.

So they decide to change their lives completely — and move out to Silicon Valley, for make-or-break internships at Google.

It’s a thin idea for a movie, and it’s developed predictably. Wilson’s character gets a romantic interest. Vaughn gets to do some silly sports stuff. They both get a tough boss, and a snobby competitor out to sabotage their chances.

What they don’t get is a movie that really goes anywhere, let alone challenges its stars to really do anything.

Which perhaps is the secret reason Levy works so regularly — he’s the Go-Along Guy, the filmmaker a big comedian hires when he wants somebody to just stay out of his way. I got this, camera boy. You just keep it in focus and watch the master work.

Lots of comics do it — it explains most of Adam Sandler’s films, and Eddie Murphy’s career. But it hurts the movies. Comics need an audience, and if a director isn’t really present, it’s like playing to an empty room. There’s no feedback — and therefore, no way to tell what’s working.

Some things work in “The Internship.” Wilson has a naturally down-home, dopey charm — he’s like a surfer cowboy. And Vaughn is his own perpetual-motion machine of riffs and references and made-up slang — all these years after “Swingers,” babies, and he’s still money…

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