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The Internship

Year: 2013
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Shawn Levy
Producer: Shawn Levy
Writer: Vince Vaughan
Cast: Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughan, Rose Byrne, Max Minghella

Let's get the very visible elephant out of the way straight away. Yes, everything about the premise of this movie is an abominable example of everything wrong with the media industry, executives always looking for ways to outsource costs (what they call 'synergies') and passing it off to us as entertainment.

The very idea of a movie as an extended ad for Google is everything many people (including me) deplore about moviemaking. It's less product placement in a movie than it is movie placement in a product. Instead of even trying to hide it from the audience behind a legitimate piece of art, it comes with the logo slapped on every side of the box. Moviegoers today are way too cynical to forgive such an approach, and any credibility it achieves because any actual filmmaking arts is largely cancelled out.

I wonder how much the critical kicking the film received was because of that – critics knew as much as anyone that it was a 90-minute advertisement, probably with substantial material backing from Google (if not money, certainly access) – and many might have confused such bald-faced marketing with bad filmmaking. I watched it for lack of anything else to choose from at the time and after everything I've heard about it, I expected to hate it so much I couldn't finish it.

Because it wasn't necessarily bad filmmaking. At least, it was on a par with other movies that can be described as Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan (and co.) doing their 'thing' like The Wedding Crashers, Dodgeball, Zoolander, Starsky and Hutch, The Watch etc. how much you like them will be a reliable gauge of how much you like this – if you can sidestep the enormous and flawed central conceit.

Two middle-aged salesmen (Wilson and Vaughan) find themselves left behind by the economy, and they blag their way into an internship at Google where they find themselves hopelessly out of their depth. Cue lots of jokes about how dumb they are next to all these genius kids, how they know a thing or two about people instead of computers (and how there's still a place for that skill in the world), how they know how to have a good time, etc.

Nerd stereotypes abound so much it should offend people who really work at Google, and there's even a love interest chucked in that Wilson wears down by his shaggy-dog doggedness in pursuing her.

To be fair, there are several genuine laughs in the script and Wilson and Vaughan can do this sort of thing with their hands tied. Maybe it would have cost a lot more being set at some fictional search engine, but just like IT company Nurv in Antitrust was a veiled stand-in for Microsoft, everyone just would snort and say 'that's such a rip-off of Google'. Maybe it would have been better to set the movie in some other industry – or not to make it at all.

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