A film that feels like one long advertisement shouldn’t be much of a shock. Advertising surrounds us (it even surrounds this review you’re reading), and while some companies will settle for product placement or marketing tie-ins, that’s small-time thinking. Google is a portal to the Internet, and if it’s going to be in a movie, it’s going to be the movie. If most reviews say that The Internship feels like one giant advertisement for Google, that’s only because it’s pretty much true. Shawn Levy‘s comedy is filled with stock characters, lethargic storytelling, and slogs through a bloated runtime as stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson try to scrap together any laughs they can. Even though Google dominates the picture, The Internship undermines the company by making it look like the most superficial and horrible place to work.
Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) are two out-of-work salesmen who feel that they don’t have a chance of getting a new job in our horrible economy. Then Billy comes up with the idea for the duo to apply for an internship at Google. The guys are hired after a video interview where the Google HR board has to remember that diversity is part of their mission statement, and two middle-aged guys with no computing experience could be a valuable addition to the company. But when Nick and Billy are scorned by their fellow interns—in particular the mean-spirited Graham (Max Minghella)—the old-timers line-up with three other interns who couldn’t find a group and their dorky leader/Google employee, Lyle (Josh Brener). Along the way, the middle-aged guys teach the interns to have fun, and Nick pursues a vapid love-story plot with Google employee, Dana (Rose Byrne).
Vaughn and Jared Stern‘s script is lazy beyond all reason. It arbitrarily shoehorns in characters like Graham and Dana because the movie assumes it needs an antagonist and a love-interest. As long as those characters are there, who cares if they’re completely uninteresting? Additionally, the majority of the comedy seems to come from sections in the script that must have read [insert riffing here]. Most of the jokes are simply Vaughn and Wilson playing off each other, and thankfully it works. It’s water in the desert in this plodding, saccharine story. For example, it takes way too long to do simple things like getting the team to bond, and all of their bonding is accomplished by watching them spend what feels like a quarter of the film at a strip club. You know, because nerds are anti-social and need to come out of their shells. Keep in mind that these aren’t shy nerds; they’re self-centered, mean-spirited nerds. Up until the strip club, Billy and Nick are treated like garbage by their fellow interns.
The entire glorification of Google crumbles because the filmmakers believe it’s not enough to simply paint Nick and Billy as underdogs who are technologically inexperienced (old people are unfamiliar with these newfangled computer machines!). Levy and his writers have to go one step further and make all the other characters utter dicks. This means all the crap that’s supposed to make Google the “best place to work in the country” is meaningless. Where would you rather work: a place where people treated each other with mutual respect and admiration, or a cutthroat environment that had a swirly slide in the lobby?
This ripple effect undermines the point of the movie, which is to promote Google. The internal dynamics of this workplace utopia are incredibly ugly, and slightly confusing. Does playing Quidditch promote teamwork or encourage bitter competition? If Google is truly about diversity, then why are all the applicants young and from the most prestigious colleges? How does a total asshole like Graham worm his way in if everyone at Google is so wonderful? Google may claim that its motto is “Don’t Be Evil,” but it’s hard to believe they actually buy into that motto when the company is filled with awful people like the ones we see in the movie.
The filmmakers may claim that this isn’t a giant Google ad, but actually a story about friendship, new beginnings, and other tripe. But The Internship is a film where there are countless opportunities for the screen to fade to white, show the Google logo, and then return us to our regularly scheduled programming. Levy awkwardly shoehorns in moments where we see the vast array of Google’s products because we weren’t aware that Gmail existed. This raises the question of why Google would even need an ad. We’re all aware of Google, and we’re going to keep on using Google.
This movie isn’t to sell Google as something you would use. It’s gloating, and that makes it more offensive than an average ad. Aside from being two hours long (and there’s absolutely no reason why this movie should be two hours), it’s unquestioningly devoted to Google to the point of worship. “I truly believe we’re making the world a better place”, Rose Byrne’s character says to Nick at one point. I’m not exactly sure how typing in “How to,” and getting one of the predictive lines of text as “How to make moonshine” makes the world a better place, but it’s amusing. The Internship doesn’t want to make you laugh that way. Google may not think they’re an evil company, but they’re clearly thin-skinned. It’s not enough to simply use Google; you have to admire it. But anyone involved in The Internship should just be embarrassed.