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Review by Ken Burke The Internship
In an attempt at a fish-out-of-water comedy concept, a couple of 40ish unemployed, analog guys snag internships at Google and must compete with digital-brained kids.
[Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ brilliantly insightful reviews. This is how we write, so as to explore what must be said as art transcends commerce (although if anyone wants to pay us for doing this ...); therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when ready to be transported to—well, wherever we end up.]
I’m sure that when Vince Vaughn came up with the idea for The Internship, then he and Jared Stern wrote it, followed by Wedding Crashers (John Beckwith, 2005) costar Owen Wilson coming on as costar here as well, along with Shawn Levy (of The Pink Panther remake  and the two Night at the Museum movies [2006, 2009] “fame” and the considerably-better Date Night ) joining in to direct it, all involved figured they had a timely comedy that would play well with both the younger crowd attuned to all things digitally-Googled and the slightly older audience already presold on the comic abilities of these two talented actors. However, when the actual delivery of this timeworn triumph-of-the-underdog tale came together all we’re really left with is a bunch of anticipated-then-fulfilled plot elements, a faux look inside the Google Mountain View, CA campus (the exteriors are actual, as are some location shots around San Francisco, but the interiors were done at Georgia Tech and other filming was done in Atlanta), and a lot of references to that ‘80s “classic” movie, Flashdance (Adrian Lyne, 1983—which features, I admit, a very catchy soundtrack but for most of it I just wanted to strangle Jennifer Beals’ pouty wannabe-serious-dancer with her own ripped sweatshirt [a “fashion” item whose career prominence is about as significant as the actress who wore it and has about as much relevance today]). If you haven’t heard much about The Internship, a “delightful” (Have I about used up my sarcasm credits before I’ve even finished the first paragraph?) little task-accomplishment comedy (one of the oldest structures in the cinematic world, brought to early perfection by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton about the time that the studios that still dominate the movie business first began to manifest themselves in the 1920s) is about a couple of early-40s high-end watch salesmen whose company is sold by its owner (John Goodman in a brief, uncredited role) even while they’re still making a sales pitch to a customer, a situation that leaves them unemployed, unprepared for the current job market, and not clear on any options (including cohabitation for Billy McMahon [Vaughn] as his girlfriend bails on him). Nick Campbell (Wilson) attempts a new (unpromising) career working as a mattress salesman for his sister’s haughty boyfriend, with Sanskrit tattoos on his neck that say “Make Reasonable Choices” (Will Ferrell, also uncredited—at least Vaughn and company have notable friends for cameos, which helps propel the first half-hour of this pleasant but very predictable movie), until Billy gets them an interview to be Google interns after which “hilarity” ensues (OK, sarcasm account drained; I’ll just try to move you quickly to the finish line here).
After their absurd Skype-type interview in which they make it clear to anyone who doesn’t think a mouse is something you feed to a cat (although I read a story [Eileen Mitchell, "KItty Knievel has a taste for cords, trouble"] in the June 12, 2013 San Francisco Chronicle about a cat that used to swallow—not just chew, swallow—electrical cables, so I guess that anything’s possible) that they have no qualifications to even be competing with tech-savvy college students at a front-line (The front-line? Will that help keep this blog from being deleted by the time the robots and spiders get through scanning this review?) computer-software firm (not to mention their driverless cars, etc.), their brutal-honesty applications somehow end up in the possibility pile where they’re championed by 23-year-old manager, Lyle (Josh Brener), and—can you stand the suspense (Uh-oh, I’m overdrawn; anyone got some extra snark they can loan me until I get to the end of this?)—suddenly the new “kids” on campus are the only interns old enough to buy beer, although they probably couldn’t figure out how to arrange for on-line-based delivery, a situation that allows them a thin margin of respect from some of the permanent Google crew because of their previous sales experience but leaves them completely isolated from their young competitors who want nothing to do with them nor want them on their intern Noogler (“Not yet Google” as noted in the movie, but “New Googler” in more-encouraging real-life terms) teams who have to compete through various Survivor-style challenges (with Google-appropriate structures) in order to win the coveted prize of full-time jobs upon college graduation for the team of 5 (only 5% of the total interns) who triumph. They’re especially looked down upon by snotty Graham Hawtrey (Max Minghella) who assumes a Google birthright and misses no opportunities to rub in the superiority of himself and his chosen team in his assumed flight to the top. Lyle is given the task of leading the not-picked-by-anyone-else team, which pairs up Billy and Nick with Yo-Yo (Tobit Raphael), insecure Asian-American, under constant pressure from his demanding “Tiger Mom” mother (a contemporary stereotype, true, but this tale is filled with them, from our doofus protagonists lost in a nerd world to everyone else in this formulaic genre situation where characters are constructed as needed identities rather than more nuanced personalities); Stuart (Daniel O’Brien), cynical, cut off from life and absorbed by his smart phone—but his attitude is fueled by one of the few biting references to real-world realities for these Millennial kids, that the economy is in terrible shape and their career outlooks are putrid at best no matter how smart they are or what college they may graduate from; and Neha (Tiya Sircar), Indian-American, with a lot of appropriate knowledge for these tasks but seemingly more interested in her self-proclaimed role as a geek-kink queen. These misfits lose the first challenge quickly to Graham’s driven minions and aren’t looking too good in the second one either, a gravity-limiting contest of Harry Potter’s Quidditch for ordinary humans, until Billy manages to rally the troops with a motivational speech based on Flashdance; it helps because even though our team still loses they begin to work with each other better and not isolate their much older teammates (as they did for the first challenge when they sent the Clueless Two off to nearby Stanford on a 21st-century “snipe hunt” to find the X-Men’s Professor Xavier; instead they find a lookalike faculty guy [Jarion Monroe], exasperated with the joke, who punches both of them out even from the limitations of his wheelchair).
Billy’s next tactic during the create-the-most-popular-new-app challenge is to blow off their work session entirely in favor of cruising up to an exotic dance club in San Francisco where Neha admits that her “exotic” interests have no substance beyond reading about them, Stuart (second from left in this photo) finally starts interacting with everyone else (and even learns to appreciate the sunrise sight of the Golden Gate bridge the next morning before they all head back to Google), and Yo-Yo really lets loose (in more ways than one) with the help of a lot of booze and a constant string of lap dancers whose proximity leads to an equally-constant string of restroom visits to use the hand dryer to more-or-less steam-clean his pants after his appropriate string of “reactions” (a cleverly-enacted comic bit, pushing this movie to the limit of its PG-13 rating) to the sensuality of the dancers (one of whom turns out to be Marielena [Jessica Szohr], a part-time dance instructor at Google [despite the movie’s exaggerations, from what I understand it really is a stimulating place to work, given all of the perks provided to encourage a constant high of creativity], the object of attraction for shy-guy Lyle [center in the above image], so [“Surprize! Surprize!” to quote Gomer Pyle—likely another reference that the standard Nooglers wouldn’t recognize] they strike up a conversation which will blossom later in the movie, just as Nick ultimately will get career-driven Googler Dana [Rose Byrne] to open up to him). Even the night of debauchery has its value as the hung-over angels of the morning come up with the idea for a challenge-winning killer app, one that tells you you’re not sober enough to drive. Of course, something has to go wrong before the ultimate triumph, which happens during the customer-service-telephone-response challenge (more on that in a minute) when Billy finally overcomes his tech-phobia with intense preparation that allows him to be a winning member of his team—except that he didn’t log in properly so none of them get any points for their superior work. In self-disgust he leaves the program to find other work until his teammates locate him and convince him to return as they’re in the midst of the final challenge: signing up the best new advertiser for Google (something that has no longer has any connection with my interests, as explained at the end of my Now You See Me [Louis Leterrier] review in our June 6, 2013 posting). After some rules-clarification conflicts at the movie’s end (with the expected harsh rejection of the results-challenge offered by Graham before he’s booted off the Google campus for good) our heroes triumph, romances bloom (including an implied one between Stuart and Neha), Yo-Yo stands up to his Mom, and everything is beautiful in its own way (a line stolen from a Ray Stevens song—but one I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Jim Nabors sing also, in completing my Gomer Pyle circle—a tune even older than the ones in Flashdance, first included on Stevens’ same-song-named album from 1970; if you’re interested and need a multicultural sugar rush, take a listen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a45z_HG3WU) as the suns sets on our happy campers, all now happily incorporated into Google Eden.
But before we float away to the Sea of Good Googleliness (or maybe the Sea of Green from The Beatles “Yellow Submarine” [odd clip at http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=_T-nzLzVM5I with poor audio but images from the 1968 Fab Four animated movie of the same title (directed by George Dunning), or if you’d prefer better audio but low-fi images then here’s another version at http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=bM5N Ii8m_kQ], except in this case the green just means money and lots of it—although I guess it did for the original Apple Corps guys as well), let’s take a look at a few realities vs. movie-creative-license inventions that crop up in this story of The Internship. As I noted in that Now You See Me posting referenced above, I have a contact at Google who offers a few insights from another perspective on what goes on in this fictional version of the innovative Silicon Valley workplace:
"It inaccurately portrays Google as being ultra-competitive, which it is not (internally) [Certainly this is a very competitive company in the external marketplace, but I agree that such aspects of their business are not focused on at all in this movie—Ken B.]. The hope is that most of the interns will meet Google standards and become employees. (That's the purpose of internships in high tech: to be a three-month job interview.) In the movie's HR portion, it says that drinking with your manager is not okay. That is not accurate. Many Google events have beer, wine, or (occasionally) champagne. Googlers' idealism is real, however. Many of us work at Google because we want to improve the world and believe working at Google is the best way to do so, and we do speak up if we think one of the company's decisions is ‘evil.’ "
So, when we see only the fortunate surviving at the end of the fierce interns’ challenges we’ve likely been led to believe that Google is more like Donald Trump’s The Apprentice than it actually is, just as when Interns’ overseer, Mr. Chetty (Aasif Mandvi), keeps coming down so hard on Billy and Nick it’s also an exaggeration (although he’s redeemed in the film with a late revelation that he also voted for them to be given an internship chance because they reminded him of his own struggles to succeed in an environment that he was assumed to not be prepared for), just as the various intra-company socializing isn’t actually taboo (although it’s not clear whether the budding romance between Nick and Dana is allowable, even after he becomes a full-timer, but let's not spoil the upbeat mood, OK?). All of which goes to say that even though Google obviously had a hand in providing support and access for the verification-context of this feel-good-but-slim movie experience they didn’t intrude on the creative license of the filmmakers' need for their expected dramatic conflict in making their conventional narrative structure, even though the sponsors prefer that a more positive image of Google would emerge in the end (which gets us back to the chastisement of Graham as he’s banished forever from the multi-colored halls of digital Nirvana for being an anti-Googler in his self-serving attitudes and ambitions). All of that is well and good, but in my opinion if Google really wants to align themselves with something that puts an even bigger spin on the positive image they’re trying to create for themselves worldwide they could have chosen a cinematic vehicle with more punch, bite, and challenging concepts that we get with The Internship. I know they’re not trying to go into controversial Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook territory such as what we got with the much more divisive and dramatic The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010), but I think the head Googlers might want something more engaging than Pollyanna goes to Mountain View, which is about what they end up with here.
|Hard-Working Film Critic Ken Burke|
in Angry Thor Mode
One last thing, about that intern challenge where the goal is to provide the most helpful answers to phone-in customers needing help: that has to rank as more fictional than anything my Googler colleague noted above about any other aspect of this film. I’ve been writing reviews for this blog for over 18 months now and have yet to get anything directly from my inquiries to Google about all of my procedural posting problems, which force me to spend at least 2-3 hours each time (more with the longer reviews) transforming what’s on the Compose page to what appears in various variations on the Preview page before I dare allow it to Post status. Had it not been for user help from the chat forums and my insider advice from my very helpful actual Googler friend I probably would have abandoned this enterprise months ago, as BlogSpot has proven to be one of the most madding software programs I’ve ever encountered in terms of What You See Is NOT Necessarily What You Get. (Would that be WYSINNWYG? It doesn’t pronounce that cleanly but it does convey the reality of what I constantly work with in trying to post something reasonably-well-designed on this website each week). Believe me, if I could ever get someone as helpful ON A TELEPHONE CALL FOR GOD’S SAKE as what I witnessed from the Lyle, Billy, Nick, Stuart, Neha, and Yo-Yo team I’d post high-praise messages on Yelp every week about the marvelous experiences of working in Google BlogSpot; until then, however, I’ll just keep struggling along trying to understand what work-around tricks are needed to get this typographic mess into acceptable form each week and see how much longer I can get away with these caustic comments about my digital overlords (at times I feel like I’m Scott Adams’ Dilbert railing against the uncomprehending pointy-haired boss [immerse yourself if you dare at http://www.dilbert.com/]). So, don’t expect much from The Internship except a hackneyed good-guys-finally-finish-first-and-some-of-them-get-some-noogie-in-the-process plot. (What do I care about my movie-content implications at this point? I’ve already been turned down for advertising support because of the non-“family-friendly” aspects of what I write about [which gives me little to work with under such strictures, when even a PG-13 movie such as The Internship has a collage of scenes that clearly imply overheated ejaculation—well, there goes my appeal for ads placement on this site—on the part of Yo-Yo in the throes of lap-dancer ecstasy.) It’s all a pleasant diversion with some occasional forays into great northern CA scenery, but when it’s all over it’s really just a rehash of Flashdance with search engines instead of leg warmers. At least I don’t even have to consider any other concluding song link, so make it happen at http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=ILWSp0m9G2U where you’ll find “Flashdance (What a Feeling),” sung by Irene Cara, with a video summary of that “inspiring” movie which gave such great life-lessons to Billy and company throughout the reach-for-the-stars-messages of The Internship.
Finally, let me note in all seriousness that I understand that Google really wants to change the world for the better. (And I hope they can; it damn sure needs it. One way they’ve just made a marvelous contribution is with the use of telerobotic technology, which allowed 13-year-old former Little Leaguer Nick LeGrande to throw out the first pitch—from Kansas City, half a continent away—in the Wednesday, June 12, 2013 game in Oakland between the Athletics and the NY Yankees, seemingly a first for the Major Leagues. Nick has severe aplastic anemia [a rare blood disorder] which prevents him from being in crowded places so with this Google-designed hookup he was able to go through his pitching motion in his home town [in a little Google-made studio set up to look like a ball park] while his movements directed the robot to throw to A’s pitcher Ryan Cook, who’s been working on projects like this to help those with such unique, debilitating ailments. For such involvement in human betterment, I applaud Google; I just wish they could also find the time to enhance BlogSpot software, although if they need all of their time and brainpower for the benefit of causes such as Nick’s then roll on, Google, I’m behind you all the way.) On a mundane level, maybe the Googlers should start by just sending us all a Flashdance DVD, because this dated paean to the power of fulfilled dreams would be more effective than leaving the implied message that The Internship is worth our time when we find that they haven’t deleted it from their search algorithms (however, I’m happy to say that those same filters put “film reviews from two guys in the dark” or even just “two guys in the dark” as the first result when I do a checkup search on our cyberspace presence—although just “film reviews” doesn’t even get us onto the first 10 pages of responses which means that option doesn’t yet reveal that we even exist—so I do offer my thanks that this little analytical blog has been recognized in some manner by the great gods of content searches). Hopefully, those same constantly-scanning robots and spiders will permit my caustic comments about Google from this review to pass unnoticed, allowing more of this dubious diatribe to continue next week. If not, I’ll leave it up to you to investigate whether Two Guys was brought down by Google or the NSA (someday they may be the same anyway, unless Disney buys them both). However, if you can’t find us again after the “cleansing,” go over to Netflix and stream any of the seasons of Arrested Development, old or new. One episode of that is worth 10 of The Internship, no matter how peppy Vince Vaughn is or now cute Owen Wilson’s broken nose may be.
If you’d desperate to know more about The Internship here are some suggested links (assuming you don’t have some more intriguing sites to spend your time with):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ro872LTfiDc (33:30 interview by Conan O’Brien with costars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, done as an interactive Goggle+ Hangout chat with some chosen Google users; lots of goofing around but not much about the movie)
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P.S. Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.