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Review: The Internship 

***

Unlike the raunchy Wedding Crashers, this Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson comedy is rated PG-13 instead of R, it avoids the strain of mean-spiritedness that's in vogue in modern comedy, and its leads are now more comfortable making jokes about 1953's Stalag 17 and 1983's Flashdance than anything from the brave new world of 2013.

Certainly, a lot of that has to do with the chemistry between Vaughn and Wilson. Here, they're respectively cast as Billy and Nick, two watch salesmen who unexpectedly find themselves out of work after their boss (John Goodman) shuts down his business (reasoning that everyone now checks for the time on their iPhones and such). Nick briefly finds employment at a mattress store (cue yet another tiresome cameo by Will Ferrell), but he's quickly talked by Billy into dropping that gig and joining him in an attempt to land internships at Google headquarters (aka The Googleplex) in California. They manage to get their feet through the door, but they now find themselves competing with numerous other interns for permanent positions - and unlike them, the other recruits are college kids who eat, drink and breathe computers.

The Internship is conventional in the ways one would expect: A longtime Google employer (Rose Byrne) initially resists Nick's flirtations but eventually falls for him; one intern (Max Minghella) mentally bullies everyone around him, especially the "old guys"; and Billy and Nick find themselves hanging out with the youthful rejects.

Yet the script by Vaughn and Jared Stern smartly addresses the generation gap without making fun of either side: There's something to be said for the work ethic of these students who acknowledge the harsh realities of contemporary career-building, but there's also much to learn from the easygoing attitudes of people who grew up in a time before every baby is automatically handed an iPod the minute it pops out of the womb.

What's more, Vaughn as both writer and co-star generously gives the younger performers in the cast room to maneuver, and even with sketched-in characters, this allows all of them to make positive impressions. Of course, the two stars still get the lion's share of the choice quips, but that's OK: They're both on their game, and it's their ingratiating ways with a line that keeps the humor percolating. Aside from an uproarious scene involving Professor Charles Xavier (yes, that Professor X), the laughs are mostly low-key - but at least they're there, which automatically places this above many guffaw-free films of its genre.

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