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News - June 7, 2013

Google's silver screen debut

by Nick Veronin

As high schools and colleges all over the country let out for summer break, teens and university students will likely take to their computers to search for one phrase: "Google internship."

In some cases, those searching will be on a quest to land a coveted spot within Google's internship program. In other cases, they might just be looking up local movie times. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson star in "The Internship" — which finds the two actors playing out-of-work, 40-something salesmen trying to reinvent themselves by apprenticing at the world's largest online search company.

The film, shot in large part at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, hits theaters Friday, June 7.

On May 30, the film's stars — Vaughn and Wilson — along with director Shawn Levy, appeared at an official Google screening of the film at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in San Francisco. Afterward, the three men participated in a moderated talk and even answered a few questions from the audience.

"The Internship" opens with Vaughn and Owen, playing best-buds and partners in sales, Billy and Nick. Much like Willy Loman, Billy and Nick are a dying breed — struggling to stay afloat in the wake of the recession by selling watches. Business isn't exactly booming.

Billy and Nick decide to shake things up and reinvent themselves — enrolling in an online university and applying to be interns at Google. The duo snag a slot in the program, despite their age and complete lack of tech know-how. Hilarity ensues, as they discover their quick wit and smooth talk is no use when it comes to hacking.

This is all pretty standard fare — what you might expect from a Vaughn and Wilson flick. Yet, while much of the movie feels a bit like a sequel to "Wedding Crashers" — with Vaughn and Wilson perpetually riffing off one another while they jump from punch line to punch line — "The Internship" does make an attempt at touching upon a slightly more serious issue: the impact the recession has had on both millennials and older generations.

In a scene in the movie, some of the younger interns are revealed to be just as worried about impressing the higher-ups as Billy and Nick are. Yet while Vaughn and Wilson's characters are worried that they'll never be able to get back into the work force, the younger characters are worried they'll never get into a good job in the first place.

During the talk, Levy said telling the generational part of the story was important to him. "For me, it was huge," he said.

The quick read on the movie is that it's a fish-out-of-water story. But, the subtext, Levy said, is the friction felt between the two generations as a result of the recession.

Billy and Nick have worked their whole lives and now find themselves with minimal job security in an unforgiving economy, the director said. But then there are the college kids, "who have played by the rules, they've done everything right, gone to the right schools ... and they have no certainty about their ability to be employed."

The movie has been criticized by some critics as being little more than a two-hour commercial for Google. And watching the movie it is easy to see why. The Google logo makes repeated appearances, and the name of the company is spoken again and again. The work spaces are hip and brightly colored, and though the characters seem constantly stressed about performing, they all seem to be having a blast.

It's also been reported that Google asked that a scene where Billy and Nick crash one of their self driving cars be deleted from the film. That scene was not in the movie that screened on May 30.

Then again, anyone who is familiar with life at Google would likely say the movie does a decent job of capturing the company's essence.

Raymond Braun currently works for Google on the YouTube marketing team. He was an intern twice — during the summers of 2010 and 2011.

When he first learned he had been accepted to the program, Braun said he was ecstatic. "I was over the moon," he exclaimed. "It was such an exciting moment."

It is exactly that sort of excitement that drew Vaughn to write the script that ultimately became "The Internship."

"There was something that just felt right about it," Vaughn told the Voice, explaining that he never considered setting the movie anywhere other than Google. "I don't think any other place would have been the same."

Over the two summers he spent there, Braun said he worked hard and was challenged, but that he also had a really good time. He became friends with his fellow interns, took trips to San Francisco and went on hikes — all on Google's dime.

By Braun's account, aside from the fictional intern competition — which appears to have been included in the movie as an engine to drive the plot — if "The Internship" is a commercial for Google, it is a relatively accurate one.

Braun said he views the movie as more than simply an advertisement for his company. He said he thinks the film will serve as a promotional tool for all of the high-tech sector. The more kids who see the movie and get interested in working in technology, the better, he said.

Kyle Ewing, head of Google's internship program, agreed. "I think it's a great thing," she said. "If this movie can put science and technology jobs in a new light, that's great."


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