The Internship (12A) ***

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Product placement in Hollywood films dates back to the 1920s and nowadays it’s commonplace for blockbusters to offset some of their astronomical budgets with shameless plugs.

Elliott lured ET out of hiding with an oft-mentioned peanut butter candy and James Bond’s antics have always relied on luxury cars and watches.

Vince Vaughn as Billy McMahon in The Internship

Vince Vaughn as Billy McMahon in The Internship

This summer, Superman’s titanic battle with General Zod in Man Of Steel razed all of Metropolis except for one branch of a nationwide shop chain and Brad Pitt took time out from battling the undead in World War Z to chug a can of his favourite soft drink in glorious close-up.

The Internship takes promotional tie-ins to the next level, constructing an entire film around one globally recognisable brand and extolling its virtues for almost two hours.

Shot on location at the San Francisco corporate headquarters of an internet search engine, Shawn Levy’s buddy comedy is essentially a glossy promo for a new generation of hi-tech companies that hope to inspire creativity by transforming workspaces into playgrounds.

‘It’s rated the best place in America to work,’ rhapsodises Vince Vaughn at the beginning of the film as he and Owen Wilson embark on a quest for ‘the intangible stuff that made a search engine an engine for change’.

They play watch salesmen Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson), who are stunned when their company goes out of business.

‘Watches are obsolete. So are you!’ laments their boss (John Goodman).

Unperturbed, Billy applies for an internship and the two men are delighted to sail through a video conference interview. Arriving on the west coast, Billy and Nick discover they will be pitted against dozens of other applicants in team-based challenges that will weed out the mental wheat from the chaff.

The buddies are paired with oddballs Neha Patel (Tiya Sircar), Stuart Twombly (Dylan O’Brien) and Yo-Yo Santos (Tobit Raphael), who are mentored by lovable geek Lyle (Josh Brener).

From the first assignment, Billy and Nick’s team fails to impress Mr Chetty (Aasif Mandvi), who runs the internship program, and they lag behind posh rival Graham Hawtrey (Max Minghella).

The Internship has a smattering of laughs but Levy’s film increasingly becomes clogged with sickly sentiment.

Vaughn and Wilson share likeable onscreen chemistry, and the latter sparks with Rose Byrne in a throwaway romantic subplot.

The central narrative feels like it could have been generated by a computer from the keywords ‘misfits’, ‘triumph’ and ‘adversity’, delivering a feel good resolution to confirm that the geeks shall inherit the virtual Earth.