They’re Back, Crashing Computers
Product placement in films has become the standard for company promotion that’s meant to be subliminal, or at least subtle. In The Internship, the latest comedic venture for director Shawn Levy, Google is both the product being placed (everywhere) and its headquarters the premises for the entire plot. The title has the same font as the infamous search engine’s homepage and by the time the film finishes you may really believe that Google is out to change the world for good.
You could also make the argument that the pairing of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson is another attempt at product placement, a duo that has spawned almost a decade of phrases and codes for “dudes” hoping to become the next Wedding Crashers. Their return to the screen together again eight years later is in a new environment, but consciously invokes their past. “The Internship” is really just “Wedding Crashers” and “Dodgeball” (both Vaughn features) layered on top of each other, just transported to San Francisco. The plot-lines match up beat by beat- underdogs, witty, sappy romance, betrayal, redemption- just with less vulgarity and nudity to appease a PG-13 rating.
That’s the style that Levy has branded unto himself after executing features like Night at the Museum and Date Night. Although the movie sidetracks to a flashdancers sequence, it stays cozy within the Google campus letting Vaughn and Wilson synergize and then bicker back and forth, and give a few life lessons along the way. In certain respects these two have grown up from their crashing days only to find themselves in mid-life crises. But instead of buying corvettes, they opt for interning.
They play Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson), two watch salesmen who lose their jobs shortly into the film. The analog ticker has lost its relevance to the digital (cellphones), and so the metaphor takes flight when these forty somethings find out about Google’s summer internship program. They interview over Skype in the children’s section of the library and use their fast-talk charm and a fake University of Phoenix resume to win over their supervisors. The lack of scrupulous applicant screening may be the only negative portrait of Google, whose pristine primary-colored grounds boast a tech-dreamed hallucination: robot cars, nap pods, and free breakfast!
The internship promises jobs to just five members of the over-ambitious college kid hopeful population and Nick and Billy, with no computer training, appear as fish out of water in both age and experience. The unfeathered duo, filled with confident pep and spirit are summoned to a group of cynical nerdy oddballs named Stuart (Dylan O’Brien), Neha (Tiya Sircar), and Yo-Yo (Tobit Raphael ), and led by their supervisor Lyle (Josh Brener). Throughout the course of the summer they compete in group challenges like encrypting data, playing Quidditch, (Harry Potter plug) and learning how to take tech support phone calls (the most overt form of propaganda). Shortening the generation gap’s large width becomes Billy and Nick’s detail oriented motivation.
The story, written by Vaughn and Jared Stern, forges a predictable path throughout the tandem’s hijinks and a spontaneous club scene, fighting the old duo’s narcissism with sentimentalism and positivity and some loosening alcohol. There’s just enough wisdom for these two to project onto their collegiate protégés and teammates, keeping the chemistry light before becoming overbearing. They act as camp counselors, Jack Blacks from School of Rock without the pre-ordained knowledge of their domain. Underneath the Google watchtower, the ostensible beacon these kids are fighting for however is a forum of twenty-first century concern. The interns, as well as Levy, are preoccupied with finding their inner “Googliness,” a microcosm of temporary over-achieving for an unknown future at a well-known, potentially exploitative corporation.
Besides falling into the plot traps of an office romance (Nick courts an employee played by Rose Byrne), a competitive bully (Max Minghella) and a poker faced coordinator (Aasif Mandvi), “The Internship” has enough levity to look past its blatant marketing and twenty-minutes-too-long runtime. These days, the phrase “Google it” has already engrained itself into the cultural dialogue for countless remedies and questions. It’s why, for the most part, you can laugh with the film, and not directly at it.