'Internship' film focuses on Google's good side

By Michael Liedtke

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, June 4 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

This film publicity image released by 20th Century Fox shows Owen Wilson, left, and Vince Vaughn in a scene from "The Internship."

20th Century Fox, Phil Bray, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — This scene isn't in the movie, but it might have been fitting if "The Internship" had ended with stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson wearing ruby red shoes while clicking their heels and dreamily whispering, "There's no place like Google; there's no place like Google."

The new comedy depicts Google as corporate America's equivalent of the Emerald City from "The Wizard of Oz" — a colorful place where all the food is free, interesting people and gadgets loom around every corner and dreams can come true for those who think big enough, work hard enough and collaborate as a team to make it happen.

It's a nearly two-hour showcase for Google's idealistic culture and for a product line that's becoming deeply ingrained in people's technology-dependent lives.

"The Internship," which hits theaters Friday, will likely be a hit among Google-loving geeks and fans of feel-good flicks, especially those with an affinity for the riffing and mirthful chemistry between Vaughn and Wilson. The two are back together for the first time since "Wedding Crashers" came out eight years ago.

But the film may not create such warm and fuzzy feelings among Google critics who view the company as a self-interested bully that tramples over copyrights, intrudes into people's privacy and stifles competition by abusing its power as the Internet's main gateway.

All of these concerns have been the focal points of high-profile regulatory investigations and lawsuits. Yet none of that is raised in the movie, which revolves around a couple of 40-something-old guys who become clueless interns at Google after losing their jobs selling a product — wristwatches — supplanted by innovation.

Everyone enamored with Google Inc. after seeing the movie should keep one thing in mind.

"This is not a documentary on Google where you come in and say, 'This is exactly the way things are done there,'" Vaughn told an audience of real-life Google interns and technology reporters after a screening of "The Internship" in San Francisco.

The biggest misnomer about the movie revolves around Google's summer internship program. As the movie portrays, Google does indeed select about 1,500 elite college students from around the world to participate, but the film conjures an imaginary curriculum for the sake of entertainment.

In the film, the interns are separated into teams that compete in different disciplines to win the ultimate prize: full-time jobs at Google. At one point, the teams even engage in a game of Quidditch, the mythical sport that aspiring wizards in "Harry Potter" play to prove their prowess. None of this is actually part of Google's real-life program, according to the company.

Another scene suggests that Google puts a premium on training employees to work a customer help line — a concept that will seem incredulous to anyone who has ever had a problem with a Google service and tried to reach a human being on the telephone. Like many other Silicon Valley companies, Google directs people to look through its own online help articles or ask other users on message boards.

Amid the fictional hijinks, the movie casts a spotlight on Google's ever-growing stable of products beyond Internet search, including YouTube, Gmail, Maps, Chrome Web browser and language translation. Google's driverless cars get a cameo, but its wearable computing device, Google Glass, doesn't appear. Device connoisseurs will notice characters using a phone made by Google-owned Motorola Mobility and devices with Google's Nexus brand. The free advertising came without Google contributing to the film's nearly $60 million budget.

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