Google has had some pretty great ads in the past. Who could forget "Parisian Love"? Or what about "Martin Van Buren"? Fantastic! Its latest is a real hoot. It's called "The Internship" and stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. And it's a long one, clocking in at nearly two hours! Here's the real doozy: they actually are going to make you pay to watch it. Yeesh — these Silicon Valley types, what will they think of next?
In all fairness, Google says it has no financial ties to or editorial control over the Shawn Levy-directed film, with a story conceived by Vince Vaughn, who co-wrote the script with Jared Stern. (Google reportedly had enough veto power however, to nix a scene that had its driverless car crash.) Google was just a willing participant, lending the film a backdrop (sans licensing fees), some hefty product placement and a fountain of platitudes about its "engine for doing good" whenever there's a sag in the dialogue.
Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) are two middle-aged buddies who make their way to the Silicon Valley Mecca when their old company — a watch manufacturer — folds. "Everything is computerized now," their boss (John Goodman) says, explaining why he is closing up shop. Billy and Nick have no marketable skills, aside from the oversized charm that served them well as salesmen for so many years. What better way to fast track to the 21st century's digital economy than with an internship at Google?
Vaughn and Wilson both play reincarnations of their "Wedding Crashers" characters. In "Crashers," their smooth-talking charisma helped them stalk nuptials for chicks. In "The Internship," it is the foundation of their sales careers and now a strength that they must parlay to stand out among their tech-savvy Ivy League Google peers. Google, in a hopefully fictionalized plot point, offers jobs to only a small percentage of its interns, which it decides through team competition challenges — a process Billy aptly describes as a "mental hunger games").
With their salesmen-y act no longer an implicit characterization (as it was in "Wedding Crashers"), but explicitly in the plot, they are even bigger show boaters (albeit, their bawdy humor toned down for a PG-13 rating). They also meld into basically the same characters with the same goals and concerns, the only difference being that Nick has a soft spot for pretty, Australian computer geeks and Billy is vulnerable to crises in self-confidence.
Worse is the one-dimensionality of their supporting cast — their Google colleagues — who all play different variations of the same socially awkward nerds. And all the elements you have predicted having seen any Vince Vaughn or Owen Wilson film are there: a wild party sequence; a pompous villain; hapless female characters who need relationship advice from the boys; a Will Ferrell cameo; and a sporting competition that ends in an injury to the groin area. Unlike "Wedding Crashers" there is no central romance. Wilson, repeating his turn as mopey-eyed and lovelorn, has a crush on one of the execs (Rose Byrne), but their courtship is a secondary story. "The Internship" would be just the same without it.
Not all of it is bad. There are some scenes that live up to the promising initial premise — middle aged men discovering the perks and setbacks of the new digital economy — like when Billy is overjoyed that Google will feed him all the free bagels and coffee he wants, or when he can't comprehend the difference between "online" and "on the line." Many of Vaughn and Wilson's riff-offs with one another – a lot of them improvised — are as amusing ever, as when they dance around Google's unconventional interview questions. And at times it's fun to watch the two actors engage in all the product placement, as when the hefty Vaughn and spindly Wilson tour around on Google bicycles or struggle to start up a Google hangout.
Yet, for the most part all the Google-touting weighs down an already flimsy storyline. Sorry Google — there just isn't an app for that.