Everybody’s Searching for Something

6 Jun

the_internship_posterIt’s hard to judge The Internship solely as a movie.

That’s because it’s more an advertorial for Google than it is a movie — as anyone who’s seen even the smallest shred of the film’s marketing campaign can attest.

I mean, holy product pimping, Batman! This film shills harder for the search engine and all its auxiliary tools than American Idol does for Coke and Ford.

It’s more in the tank for Google than You’ve Got Mail was for AOL back in 1998.

More than The Wizard was for Nintendo back in 1989.

And yes, even more than Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle was for the burger chain in 2004.

Hell, I’m surprised the film’s not called Google: The Movie.

But alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, can we move on?

Yes.

Let’s.

The Internship reunites Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson eight years after they starred in Wedding Crashers, and casts them here as Billy and Nick, two guys who get laid off from their jobs as watch salesmen and somehow get hired as interns at Google. (Their former boss is played by John Goodman, wasted now for the second time in a month.)

the-internship-wilson-vaughnVaughn is basically the same loud, fast-talking, jerk character he played in Swingers 17 years ago, and that we’ve seen many times before in Dodgeball, Fred Claus, Couples Retreat, and other films. Wilson, a bit more grounded and charming, again plays a hangdog ladies’ man (who here romances a coworker played by Rose Byrne, from Bridesmaids). They still have decent chemistry, even if their onscreen relationship seems a little bit forced.

Anyway, the interns are all broken up into teams (the prize being full-time job offers), and of course, Billy and Nick wind up on one with a bunch of geek losers. But even though they initially know very little about computers or technology in general, these two square pegs find a way to rally their troops, compete against a cocky fellow intern played by The Social Network’s Max Minghella, and prove the naysayers wrong (again, of course they do).

Yes, the whole things’s a bit formulaic and thematically blunt (these guys are so old they drink a brand of bourbon called Pappy Van Winkle!), some plot details don’t make sense or aren’t followed up on, and the laughs, what little of them there are, come from scenarios such as one where the technophobic pair do a joint interview via Google Hangout (natch) in a public library.

the-internship-clubThat’s why it’s frustrating that as much as you shouldn’t like this only intermittently funny film, it eventually wins you over. Perhaps that’s because while Vaughn and Wilson operate mostly on auto-pilot, they’re surrounded by folks like The Book of Mormon’s Josh Gad and The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi, who actually appear to be having a good time. Maybe it’s because the younger cast of geeks are all kinda cool.

Or, maybe it’s because director Shawn Levy is operating in a candy-colored playground with what seems to be completely free reign, and that’s resulted in a bright and easygoing, almost likeable mainstream film. (Look out for Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, both of whom make cameos.)

Whatever the reason, don’t be surprised if you have a mild, begrudging smile on your face when the film’s over. (You’ve been warned.)

Let me be clear about something, though: While The Internship is not a great movie, it’s a fascinating and much better example of content marketing. The film uses its amiable cast and light-hearted premise to illustrate the features and benefits of Google tools — everything from the aforementioned Hangouts to the app store — and put the spotlight on just how cool it apparently is to work on the company’s Palo Alto campus.

Is it heavy handed? Absolutely. Was some of the screenplay written by Google’s PR team? Probably. (“Picture the greatest amusement park you’ve ever been to as a kid. Now imagine nothing like it and a million times better,” Nick says early on.) But does it get the message across? You betcha.

The Internship hangoutNearly every Google product included is explained in a proper and entertaining context, highlighting the value proposition, and encouraging its use. A scene where the guys work on Google’s (fictional) support service offers up some help topics. Hell, there’s even a scene where Billy, Nick, and their team break out a Google AdWords sales pitch to a struggling small business. It’ll make you want to run out of the theater and buy some keywords. Or, at the very least, apply for a job.

For most moviegoers, all that “Googliness” will probably be a turnoff. But as someone who works in marketing, I found it … interesting. (And for the record, I’m still not going to use Google+.)

So that’s why I’m giving The Internship a B– as a film, but a B+ as an example of content marketing.

Can you believe it’s been eight years since Wedding Crashers came out? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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One Response to “Everybody’s Searching for Something”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Best Movies of 2014 Were Quite the Present | Martin's Musings - December 29, 2014

    […] The LEGO Movie What could have been an advertisement barely disguised as a movie (hello, The Internship) instead turned out to be a wacky, brilliant, and oftentimes subversive comedy that went beyond […]

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