As an exercise in cinematic product placement, The Internship (2013) is an unmitigated failure. It’s a $58 million commercial that succeeds not in endearing viewers to the product it’s advertising, but instead promotes resentment toward said product through the movie’s transparently-motivated, interminable praise of it. That product: Google. According to The Internship, Google is not just a search engine with a host of functions and ancillary products, most of which I never use. Google is all that’s good and desirable in this world. It’s the American Dream and the Google campus is a wonderland toward which we should all aspire. It’s the Land of Oz and Harry Potter lives there and you can get free bananas any time you want!
Only the semblance of a plot and the presence of stars Vince Vaughn (who co-wrote the picture) and Owen Wilson distinguish the film from your average industrial film. In spite of this, I didn’t even hate The Internship, oddly enough. On some very basic levels, the film transcends your average mainstream comedy with regard to its honest depiction of how easy it is to get left behind in a workforce driven by rapidly-advancing technologies. And while that would typically be enough for me to recommend a film for at least a viewing, it’s hard to give slack to a film that so gratuitously peddles its wares on potentially unsuspecting viewers. Had it been titled honestly dubbed Google: The Movie, its narrative successes may have allowed it to rise above such an unappealing if accurate title, making it surprisingly interesting. As is, it feels as though the innocuous title, The Internship, was manufactured specifically to obscure the filmmakers’ (perhaps well-meaning, yet misguided) propagandistic motivations. As such, I surmise only the most devoted fans of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson comedies will be able to stomach the constant pandering to Google.
Certainly by now the film’s unbridled fetishization of Google is no secret, however. But if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking you have to see it for yourself just how far they take this whole Google thing. And by all means, don’t let me stop you. It really has to be seen to be believed. If you do decide to bite the bullet and rent this feature-length Google love-in, though, the film does at least do something interesting where the characterization of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s Billy and Nick is concerned. Refreshingly, these characters aren’t the usual man-children we’ve come to expect from Vince Vaughn comedies. This isn’t a story about them learning responsibility and maturing in the end as a result.
Billy and Nick apply for an internship at Google not as part of some get-rich-quick scheme or to impress a woman. They apply for the internship because they long ago invested their time in an industry that technological advances in the last twenty years have made superfluous: watches. These are guys who have in fact always done the right thing, even if they did live a little above their means. They took the steady paycheck watch sales afforded them and devoted themselves entirely to their work. But changing times find them unemployed and with relatively few saleable skills that employers might find attractive. It’s a welcome and poignant reworking of the man-child trope that speaks to the plight of the many down-and-out workers who have been made obsolete by computer-based technologies. The characters’ thin histories and the film’s stereotypical depictions of programmers and geeks aside, this theme and an occasional laugh would have been more than enough to carry the film. Couched in a two-hour-long commercial for Google, however, the theme unfortunately loses considerable effectiveness.
The Internship is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. The Blu-ray release includes an unrated cut of the film, deleted scenes, a featurette about the execution of the Quidditch game the characters play in the film, and commentary with director Shawn Levy.