Wednesday, June 26, 2013

'The Internship' (2013) directed by Shawn Levy

The Internship is incredibly bizarre.  A mainstream comedy that spends two hours giving a loving, soapy titwank to an enormously wealthy multinational corporation.  A film that gets down on its knees and with a song in its heart commences giving Google the best blowjob of its life.   Maybe it needs one, the rampant tax dodging and secret NSA spying programs  have taken much of the lustre from the Google brand.  But this isn't going to heal the company's image -it's more like rubbing salt into the wound. This is a powerfully lame film. 

The preposterous plot follows Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as they navigate the treacherous waters of the modern job market.  (I'm sure these characters have names, but they're pretty much Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) Having lost their jobs as watch salesmen they find themselves adrift and penniless.  In an unlikely development, given that they are clueless about modern technology, they secure a summer internship at Google with the promise of a job at the corporation if they succeed.  From here the film essentially becomes a typical US college film, Vaughn and Wilson team up with a ragtag bag of misfits and weirdos and take on the preppy, stuck-up overachievers.  

There's a lot of gazing with doe-eyed contentment at Google products.
I don't really give a shit about logical gaps in a movie's plot, but even I find it a bit unlikely that Google would employ people who know so little about computers that they repeatedly say "on the line" instead of "online".  They sort of justify this by showing that Google would apparently rather employ people with great interpersonal skills rather than any technical ability or indeed any knowledge whatsoever of what Google actually 'do'.  So at least as far as I can tell, the film functions as a way to make morons feel good about themselves - we'll show those stuck-up tech boffins what's what with our earthy 'get shit done' regular dudeness!

It's difficult to fault The Internship on its production values - everything in the film is done to a largely professional standard and I can't really say it's poorly directed.  Invisibly directed might be more appropriate. The acting is similarly unfussily competent,  Vaughn and Wilson do exactly what's expected of them and nothing more, Rose Byrne's cornering of the market in repressed, lovesick, career-minded executive roles continues unabated and everybody else turns up, punches in, and leaves with a paycheque.  The only performance that stands out is Max Minghella's villainous British rival intern.  He's a princely arsehole; in a film that espouses a sunny, laid back California philosophy, this prickish unpleasantness becomes a breath of fresh air.  But the character that's the most off-putting here is Google itself.

Remind me what the film's about again please?
Why on earth would Google do this?  It feels like a gigantic PR mis-step from start to finish.  Why on earth would a company that prides themselves on being one step ahead of everybody else make such a weirdly outdated movie?  What's worse is that it seems totally blind as to how preposterous it's being: the film genuinely adores Google without the faintest sniff of irony.  

The Google headquarters is described as "The Garden of Eden", "the greatest place to work on earth" and "the best theme park you've been to, times a million".  Admittedly as a workplace it does look superficially attractive, there's free food, free laundry, nap pods, dance classes - everything you could ever want - why, you might as well never leave!  But then, when you think about it, that's probably the idea.  Somewhat ironically for a company that thrives on the interconnected online world, the headquarters exists in a rarefied bubble.  Everyone is so upbeat, happy and positive about Google to a freakish degree.  It's like they've been inducted into a cult.

The film is full of direct sales pitches direct to the audience about the godliness of Google, culminating in a sequence where Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson look directly into the camera and carefully explaining to us how Google advertising can benefit our small businesses!  Who on earth thought this would be a good idea?

Much against my better judgement, even after all of the impossibly arrogant tax dodging and the rampant betrayal of my privacy, I still use Google.  I'm writing this in a Chrome browser, I have an Android phone, I use Gmail, Google Search, Google Maps, Google Calendars, Google Drive and Google Reader literally every day.  This very website is hosted by Google.  If I stopped using Google products my life would get pretty inconvenient pretty fast.  This film really, really, really tests my patience with this company to breaking point.  I gritted my teeth in annoyance at sequences about how amazing Google tech support is or when they espouse the myriad wonder of a Google Hangout.

The film is so bad that you reflexively begin to pick holes in their wishy-washy 'anything goes, blue-sky thinking' corporate philosophy.  When you see Google employees relaxing in their 'nap pods' you want to yell, "do some work you bums!".  When you see Vince Vaughn stuffing his face with free food in the Google cafeteria you realise that part of the reason they can afford to give away free food is because they're dodging so much tax.  The sushi that Vince is piling into his sweaty gob? WE'RE THE MUGS PAYING FOR IT.

Perhaps this film might have worked if it'd been about a fictional tech giant. At least then they'd have been able to poke a bit of fun at these companies, but making the film about an actual real-life multinational corporation and portraying it as a perfect, heavenly utopia is repellent and frankly, kind of insane.  Are movies like this what people want to pay to see?  Full-length advertisements for multinationals populated with famous actors, run right through with wanky, self-congratulatory propaganda?  

The only conclusion I can reach is that Google are sadists.  They know there's no way we're  going to stop using their services.  They could have put out a film that was just Sergey Brin calling us "fucking idiots" for 90 minutes and I doubt it would affect their business.  The Internship isn't just a bad comedy - watching it actually made me feel ashamed of myself.  

I suppose... there's always Yahoo... 

*sobs quietly*

'The Internship' is on general release from July 4.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

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