Arts movie review

A recruitment ad for Google

No code was harmed in the making of this film

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Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in The Internship.
Phil Bray


The Internship

Directed by Shawn Levy

Starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn

Rated PG-13

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Wedding crashers Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn team up again in Shawn Levy’s feel-good buddy flick about two underdogs with no technical skills who talk their way into a summer internship program at Google and show that spirit can overcome even the most difficult of projects. Nick (Wilson) and Billy (Vaughn) are watch salesmen who lose their jobs and face a bleak future in which their sales skills can’t translate into anything other than selling mattresses for a scumbag boss. Billy somehow lands them an interview for internships at Google, The committee decides that hiring two charismatic guys with “life experience” who humorously BS-ed their way out of actually answering the interview question represents a nod to diversity at a company where everyone else is too predictably educated.

The real star of this film is Google. The audience hears what the interns hear about Google’s quest to make the world a better place. And a plethora of Google products are name-checked, from the search engine with autocomplete, with which Billy first looks for job listings, to the suite of products showcased by the team of plucky interns selling advertising tools to a local pizzeria. The GooglePlex is a theme-park wonderland with free food, a giant slide, self-driving cars, and other amenities that Google does offer in reality. If you have a crush on Google, this movie is for you, and you will love the closing credits made by the Google Creative Lab that mimic a Google commercial.

The structure of the internship program is a glaring but forgivable departure from reality. Teams of five must compete in several challenges, and the winning team is guaranteed full-time employment. The challenges are for the most part relevant to software development, such as finding a bug in two million lines of code or developing an app. But other than having the interns banter with some jargon, no actual software development is shown. Although Larry Page claimed that Google became involved with the film because computer science has a marketing problem, it’s hard to imagine this film making anyone excited about computer science or software development. This film is about software development in the way Office Space is: it just takes a rosier view. It can be regarded as a buddy comedy that just needed a convenient scaffold, which comes painted in Google’s blue, red, yellow and green.

There are several scenes of laugh-out-loud comedy, including the interview on Google Hangout, Billy’s pitch for an Instagram clone, and any scene with the summer internship program coordinator Dr. Chetty (a fantastic performance by Aasif Mandvi) in it. However, this film falls flat when it tries to tell a tale of turning a group of kids who were picked last into a real team that beats the odds. Sometimes the only way to know that Billy is inspiring his teammates rather than making an inane allusion to 80’s pop culture is that the background music changes. The Internship is not The Big Bang Theory, but viewers might nevertheless roll their eyes at several geek stereotypes, like the overachieving Asian intern and his “tiger mother.” Naturally, Billy and Nick must step in to show these nerds how to loosen up, have fun and think outside the box by bringing them to a strip club, with predictable results. In the end, Billy and Nick impart lessons about life to the young people, the team that shows the most “Googliness” triumphs, and we’ve all learned a little bit more about the products offered by Google.