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Google Loves The Internship; Critics Not So Much 103

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-jj-abrams dept.
theodp writes "It was the best of movies; it was the worst of movies. GeekWire reports that The Internship — the new comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as two 40-something guys who get internships at Google — is getting high praise from Googlers but low marks from movie critics. Google CEO Larry Page called the movie 'a lot of fun' in his Google+ post, while fellow Google exec Vic Gundotra gushed, 'I laughed a lot while watching this movie!' After screening a sneak preview with Google companions, Wired's Steven Levy wrote, 'From Google's point of view, the movie could not possibly be better.' USA Today's take, on the other hand, is that 'Google has never looked lamer thanks to The Internship.' And the NY Daily News calls the movie 'an unfunny valentine to Google.' But perhaps the unkindest cut of all comes from the NY Post, who suggests that 'maybe The Internship was secretly funded by Bing.' Ouch." Update: 06/07 20:02 GMT by T : Peter Wayner saw the movie (a "harmless bit of summer fluff"), and his full-length take below takes on some of the tech-company misconceptions that the film-makers gleefully adopted as script material.
While there have been a handful of movies about hacking (“War Games”, “Hackers”) and every heist movie seems to stick at least one programmer on the team, there are few films devoted to craft of building software. Who would want to spend two hours staring at beautiful actors stuck in cubicles staring at lines of code? “The Internship”, thankfully, isn’t that movie, although it is set at Google’s mothership where the average day is filled with days staring at lines of code. It’s a harmless bit of summer fluff that sails blithely along in its own carefully edited version of reality pretending that building software is anything but staring at screens. It’s a nice journey to a happy ending with only a few veiled hints of darker trends and deeper issues buried underneath the fun.

The movie is a buddy comedy pairing Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, the dynamic duo who were last seen together in “The Wedding Crashers” as fast-talking scammers sneaking into receptions. This time, they’re washed up watch salesmen fast-talking their way into a job at Google. Someone finally noticed that mobile phones took over the job of telling time. The Hollywood executives who develop movies with lambda expressions probably called it “The Google Crashers.”

The two actors are likeable rogues that are playing the same game. They may be older but they understand people, unlike the nerds at the Googleplex. They’ve got an answer for everything and that answer is usually something that will keep them afloat in the rapidly changing economy. It’s sort of “Glengarry Glen Ross” or “Death of a Salesman” without the adultery or the kind of lefty talk that attracts the attention of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

For them, Google is the promised land, the Emerald City, the Big Rock Candy Mountain, a role that the company plays happily, almost too happily. The company reportedly traded access to the Googleplex for some control of the script and they reportedly wielded this knife to slice away a scene showing a crash of their now famous self-driving cars. Claire Cain Miller at the NY Times reported that the company even created the credits and packed them full of ads for Google’s famous and not-so-famous products. There’s only a bit of irony in the way that the company that once made its name by creating tasteful, small and very focused ads could put its name on such an endless, loud and extravagant act of branding.

Naturally, the list of which Google features makes the closing credits is highly selective. There’s no mention of the direct link that the US Government claims to have to Google’s huge files on all of us or any discussion of the ongoing morass of the lawsuit from the book authors. There is also no questioning of Google’s vision of the social compact where you and I do the work of creating the content and they enjoy the fruits of the advertising that pays for most of the luxuries seen in the movie. It’s not “Enemy of the State” and certainly not “Office Space.” The pro-business crowd that is always asking Hollywood for some good corporate characters has finally gotten its wish.

But Slashdot readers will be a bit disappointed because the Google shown in the movie is just another company from central casting. There are occasional references to HTML5, CSS3 and “building an app” but most of the audience will walk away thinking that answer to creating software is eating pizza, going to a strip club, or drinking alcohol. Just as Hollywood injected scenes of drunken programming into “The Social Network”, Hollywood can’t seem to believe that software is made with logic, precision and concentration. The secret of success, at least according to the movie, is the same as the secret to diabetes: plenty of carbs and plenty of alcohol.

It may be too much to expect Hollywood to confront some of the deeper issues about Google’s work place because the movie is a comedy, not a remake of “Norma Rae”. The characters make a brief reference the downside and the brutal, winner-take-all game that they’re playing. 95% of the interns won’t get a paying job and most people who get paying jobs won’t get stock options worth very much. It’s like “The Hunger Games” but played for laughs.

Sitting around moaning about the way that Google (and the Internet) is destroying so many jobs wouldn’t make for a fun movie. Instead the characters revel in the free food and the non-stop buffet without recognizing that the benefits are a bit of a clever trap. Feeding someone $20 in food is a good deal if it keeps them working for three to six more hours.

The script writers apparently didn’t get the memo that the company has slowly been cutting back on the fancy extras. In 2008, the IPO millionaires boosted the cost of day care so high that there was open sobbing from the post-IPO engineers who couldn’t afford it. While many outsiders think movies like this are accurate, insiders complain that they can’t afford the day care which costs thousands of dollars per kid per month. It’s a not-so-subtle message that kids are a high cost that get in the way of software development.

And then in 2009 Google started clamping down on the free food, especially the clever employees who would take home big containers of food on Friday to make it through the weekend without a trip to the office. Larry Page told reporters at a news conference then, “I think it’s important to reset the culture from time to time. we decided to, for example, we significantly cut down all the snacks that had been available.” This new version made the film because Vaughn learns, to his chagrin, that he can’t take home the seven bagels he got for free. Once again, the food is just a carrot to keep people in front of the screens.

The movie certainly suggests that Google, like “Logan’s Run”, is filled with 20-somethings on an extended summer camp sleepover with fat salaries to make it even more fun. One of the managers is said to be 23 and already seasoned because he’s spent 4 years with the company.

Is this really accurate or just another bit of Hollywood frosting on the free cookie? Alas, Google has endured at least one high-profile age discrimination lawsuit from a manager who lost millions in stock options after being fired. The ex-employee’s lawyers dug up incriminating emails saying, among other things, that the guy was an “old man”, an “old guy” and an “old fuddy-duddy”. That attitude is heard again and again here although with less precision.

When I’ve spoken with people who’ve worked there, they have cautiously suggested that age discrimination is a real issue, especially to anyone who grows up, has kids, and starts working shorter hours. Somehow, the older folks seem to get replaced by someone who is young. Then, when their contract ends, they’re given a “severance deal” that effectively buys their silence. They’ll only mention the issue of age discrimination in bars far away from any Glassholes wearing Google Glass recording everything.

Still, this view doesn’t jibe with my experiences. Many of the people I’ve met at Google are older and some even sport grey beards. The engineering teams and some of the development teams are run by seasoned veterans with years of experience in the valley. For every 22 year old twerp in the movie, I’ve met some 40-somethings who know a thing or two and work at Google.

Indeed, the founders of Google are now about as old as Vaughn and Wilson. Larry Page turned 40 on March 26th and Sergey Brin joins him on August 21st. Long ago, the founders joked that their first corporate jet was going to be a “party plane” with king-sized beds, but today they are married and live in the suburbs. One equally old Googler told me about how touched he was to have one of the founders roll up to a party in a Honda Odyssey driven by the founder, not a robot. In other words, they were very normal, they just happened to have plenty of money.

This fiction that Silicon Valley is powered by youth is an old game played by Silicon Valley. Almost every startup run by a teenage sensation has a greyhaired venture capitalist pulling the puppet strings. Arthur Rock, Mike Markkula and Andy Grove put up plenty of money to fund Apple Computer but somehow the story was always about Jobs and Wozniak. In most cases, the youth are run ragged on the hamster wheels with stock options dangled in front of them.

It’s a nice story that sells so well that Google and Vince Vaughn decided to repackage it as a movie. The kids do okay. They get fancy meals and decent salaries. But the movie doesn’t want to spend too much time dwelling upon the accuracy of this fiction. Just as Alfred Hitchcock said, “For me, the cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake.” This movie takes that aphorism and improves it by making the cake free. If only life were that simple.

Bio: Peter Wayner is the author of more than dozen books and his latest are a history of "Death of a Salesman" and a forward-looking exploration of the impact of the self-driving car.
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Google Loves The Internship; Critics Not So Much

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  • I'm pretty sure The Onion hit the nail on the head [youtube.com] (as well as their actual review of it [avclub.com]).

    But this is coming from someone who's probably going to see Frances Ha tonight and is still trying to get his hands on a copy of Incendies so if you want to laugh and don't want to have to think ... watch it make millions.
    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Just watching the previews there is product placement and then there is a movie length commercial, that Resident Evil where they had the simulated cities (so they can have an assload of billboards for Alice to be seen in front of) was a good example of product placement taking over the show but from the commercials...damn. I just hope Google paid to have this movie made because in the 3 previews i saw the thing looks like a giant loveletter to all things Google.

      And what happened to Vince Vaughn anyway? O

      • Bill Murray is a naturally hilarious guy. Vince Vaughn has been working the same schtick since Swingers. I saw the ads and thought, Isn't he a little old to be doing these kinds of flicks?.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Well be fair, when he first started out Vince Vaughn looked like he was gonna fit into that "insensitive smartass that is basically a nice guy" role that Murray was great at early in his career and to be fair Murray did do a few stinkers in his career...but Jesus fucking Christ, Vaughn just did this M. Night style flameout that would almost be worthy of study if the movies weren't just so fucking BAD with a capital B!

          So I just want to know what is up with that, because in interviews he seems like he isn't a

          • by Rakarra (112805)

            I always wondered about actors like Rob Schneider and Nicholas Cage -- actors who seem to have a moderate amount of acting/humor talent... who then choose the absolutely worst projects to star in. Vaughn could be an actor with talent but no vision who reads a script and imagines it'll be better than it is after filming. Or passes on a project because he doesn't see the potential.

            Roger Ebert had a theory about Nicholas Cage, that his acting career was a great experiment where he decided to only sign up for t

            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              Nic Cage got his ass ripped off by one of one of those stock brokers, may have been old Bernie, all i know is he got his accounts pretty much cleaned out and now will take just about anything that has a decent paycheck.

              Oh and if you want a good chuckle? Turns out Will Smith turned down Django to start in After Earth, just like how he turned down the Matrix to star in Wild Wild West, so pretty much anybody can pick a clunker. But there are just some actors, Sandler, Schneider, Vaughn, that just seem to have

              • by Rakarra (112805)

                Sandler -could- make a good film. Punch Drunk Love was quite decent, but it was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson so you could expect as much.
                Will Smith turned down Django because Christoph Waltz was to have more lines. Smith's demand was that the character of Django be expanded (more than it was) to make him the clear star.

                And he starred in After Earth because it's super-Scientologistic.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        I saw one Vince Vaughn movie, and that was one too many for me.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        And what happened to Vince Vaughn anyway?

        When was Vince Vaughn ever funny.

        He was always fake and annoying, it's just taken most people this long to realise it. You can dump Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller into the same annoying category.

        I saw the preview for The Intern whilst watching Star Trek... I could tell how badly it was going to suck in the first 30 seconds.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Even if you don't like his style if given a decent role frankly any halfway decent actor can put in a decent performance, look at Ferrell in the remake of The Producers, frankly he was the only good thing in that POS and I don't like Ferrell, but like Kenneth Mars he took the role of a Nazi and made him a fun character.

          And I do find it ironic that you are complaining about hacks..when you were watching a movie made by the co-king of hacks, JJ Abrams. His movies are nothing but action set pieces and he eve

          • by mjwx (966435)

            Even if you don't like his style if given a decent role frankly any halfway decent actor can put in a decent performance, look at Ferrell in the remake of The Producer

            No, Ferrell still sucked in that. He utterly sucked at being a stereotypical German.

            And I'm a fan Mel Brooks' comedy, as stupid as it is (almost to the point of being slapstick) it's normally extremely well executed (thinking along the line of Spaceballs).

            And I do find it ironic that you are complaining about hacks

            Ah yes, here the Purit

    • I think people are expecting Citizen Kane type of movie...and this aint it.
  • by denis-The-menace (471988) on Friday June 07, 2013 @04:03PM (#43940235)

    Anybody else sees it this way?

    • by Seumas (6865)

      I've never heard of this movie, but it sounds completely miserable.

      What's next? How about a movie about a PEPSI delivery driver? Or maybe a movie about one of those guys in third world nations who makes pennies buying soda from their local Coke bottler and stacking it onto the back of their bicycle and delivering it to the shoeless people in mid-huts many miles away, because we can't have two square inches of planet Earth that isn't addicted to corporate sugar-water? Or maybe Marissa can get Yahoo! a movie

    • Good point! But Google doesn't need it...they are Google!
  • by TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) on Friday June 07, 2013 @04:04PM (#43940243)
    The media's portrayal of anything related to computers or computer users is at best unfunny. At worst, it's personally insulting. Computers have become a large enough part of our lives that I think the media needs to get past the whole "nerdy awkward computer geek" stereotype that exists in almost every single show or movie that has someone who know's computers.
    • That is absolutely true! I and I am going to complain all about this unfair stereotyping in IRC later on today!
    • The NCIS stuff is largely because that's how it looks to non-technical people. And because it endears techs to the old people who actually watch those shows if they are weird and awkward.

      The rest (such as the alcohol fuelled app creation) comes from screen-writers projecting their own experience onto the software development. "I have deadlines, they have deadlines. I'm creative, they're... apparently... creative, I guess. So we're like the same. I totally know this stuff."

      (Hell, how much alcohol (or "alcoho

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Because this is a depiction of how google sees people over 40!
  • Well of course (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zouden (232738) on Friday June 07, 2013 @04:10PM (#43940279)

    Is the CEO of Google going to say "it's a bad film"? Even if he knows it's terrible, it doesn't look good to publicly trash something as trivial as a movie.

  • by tverbeek (457094) on Friday June 07, 2013 @04:12PM (#43940299) Homepage
    "For every 22 year old twerp in the movie, I’ve met some 40-somethings who know a thing or two and work at Google."

    <sarcasm>As someone who is nearly 50 – and still at least 20 years from retirement – I find this oh so very reassuring.</sarcasm>
  • 95% of the interns won’t get a paying job

    Google interns are paid well. Like 6000 to 9000 per month.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      100k/year for internship? source? does not compute. that's paying interns more money than contractors.

  • On the way to lunch today, a coworker mentioned this movie to me and said he thought it was pretty funny. An ad for Google? Perhaps, he says, but still worth watching anyways.

    I've never taken up the guy on any movie recommendations before, so I can vouch for his credibility. Yet, anyways.
    • by iggymanz (596061)

      it is not an ad for google. the viewers of this movie, google's users, are product not market

  • Vince Vaughan peaked with Clay Pigeons and Owen Wilson with The Minus Man. How far they fall.
  • Google is not ideal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 07, 2013 @04:28PM (#43940451)

    I always considered working at Google to be something that would be amazing, but could never happen to me. In the end, I interned there, and got a full time offer, which I declined. I know others who did so as well. Why? Well, whats google do? They maintain a collection of increasingly messy front ends with huge piles of Java and C++ behind them, with the goal of targeting ads effectively. Its almost all maintenance and basic feature work on ad targeting/serving stuff. Theres a few cool projects, but really, unless you are a PHD, or just really lucky, you will be targeting ads, or working on database tech to target ads. You will be on call, and work on high risk live ad related services.

    You get paid a lot (~ $105k), and get great food, and amazing bonuses. If I was planning to have kids now (or already had), Google's extra money, and paternity leave, as well as stability of a big company might have won me over.

    Us CSE graduates here are lucky to have tons of companies begging for us, and thus lots of good choices. I really wish job opportunities were less horribly skewed, but I'll take my undeserved opportunity while it lasts.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Shados (741919)

      Most big companies are like that. I know a fair amount of people who work there (I live across the street from their Cambridge, MA office). Some love it, the ones that work on the cool stuff, some ran away from it, the ones that worked on the crap project and didnt get an opportunity for internal move.

      Same at the company I work for now. My department is pretty amazing and everyone loves it, but with a few thousand engineers in various cities, not everyone gets to work on the cool shit, under the awesome man

      • by yuhong (1378501)

        michaelochurch on HN has talked about this and the problems of closed allocation.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    With all the news being batted about about the NSA and their spying capabilites, particularly when service providers like Google are implicated, they need a movie like this to portray them as a "friendly giant" company with a barrier to entry that allows for any American to live out the dream with them. It's a lot more warm and fuzzy an image than the news is currently portraying them, which is far closer to the truth -- Google as a paid informant to the US presidency, possibly to leaders of other countries

  • Of all the glaring tech and business inaccuracies, this one stands out the most: one of the team challenges the interns must face is going on the Google tech support phone lines to give good customer service. I wonder if anybody ever told Vaughn during a script review that THERE IS NO PHONE SUPPORT AT GOOGLE. Or EVEN DIRECT EMAIL SUPPORT. Or maybe the idea of such a huge, profitable, reputable and non-evil company not having personalized tech support was so unthinkable that nobody ever bothered to check

  • by CTachyon (412849) <chronos AT chronos-tachyon DOT net> on Friday June 07, 2013 @04:35PM (#43940523) Homepage

    ... and, uh, "praise" is not the word to describe what my co-workers are saying about the movie.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They actually say something? I thought they are just prying their palms from their foreheads after seeing the movie.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by swillden (191260)

        They actually say something? I thought they are just prying their palms from their foreheads after seeing the movie.

        Nah... we're mining it for ideas.

        My team has some interns showing up in the next couple of weeks and we're already thinking about putting them in teams and giving them ridiculous challenges to compete, then having them do a stack ranking of each other and whoever comes out on the bottom will get sent home.

        Well, either that or we'll give them some code to write. Probably that.

        • haha :)

          Maybe Google X should mine more movies for ideas. Nixon asked his science advisers what to do after putting a man on the moon, and they all pointed to the film 2001 and said we want to do that... speaking to the shuttle program and space station. He said pick one.

          Seriously, self driving cars will be a revolution, keep that going. Just from a guys perspective alone, and especially an introvert, that 20-30 minutes of decompress time relaxing in your car, taking a nap, or reading Slashdot while your

  • It looked pretty funny to me, and I'm a developer. I know what's not right, but that doesn't make the stuff any less funny. And so far I've pretty much never agreed with any critic, so I think I'll make up my own mind. Prime example, most of the critics said the new Star Trek movie sucked. As a hard cord Trek fan for almost 20 years, I'm only 30, I loved it. TL;DR: Critics are stupid, make up your own mind.
    • TL;DR: Critics are stupid, make up your own mind.

      Please tell me how many minutes of audio-visual entertainment are produced each year. If it helps, you can restrict yourself to English-language film and TV. No one person can "make up [their] own mind" on all of it. There are films out that are better than this, but you haven't heard of them because they weren't made by some big soulless by-the-numbers Hollywood production house. Once you've "made up your own mind" about every DVD on sale from Amazon, then you can come back and tell everyone else to do

      • by Xest (935314)

        I think you're over-analysing his point.

        It's really quite simple, if a film sounds like it's of a subject matter that interests you and you have the opportunity to watch it (time, and ability to acquire it) then watch it regardless of what some critic says.

        I agree with him tbh, I tend to find critics are dull, soulless people given the stuff they slate and rate. According to critics some of the most cliched, dull, uninteresting films are the greatest things ever made. Life of Pi for example was highly rated

  • most of the audience will walk away thinking that answer to creating software is eating pizza, going to a strip club, or drinking alcohol

    Well, I mean if you are looking to burn VC cash.

  • I just saw the movie, it was funny, my 16 year-old son really enjoyed it.

    This isn't high art, it's a summer comedy. That it is set on Google's campus doesn't mean it is (or should even be considered) an accurate depiction of what goes on at Google w/r/t internships.

    Personally, I found the movie entertaining, but a bit too much like "Dodgeball" for my taste - the plot line is very similar, including a near dodgeball-like Quidich match where contestants throw red rubber balls at opposing team mates to "take t

  • by sirwired (27582) on Friday June 07, 2013 @05:14PM (#43940825)

    What the hell kind of a "review" was that? It seemed like most of the review was spent moaning about how evil Google is. Whether it is or isn't is kind of beside the point; it's a Google ad not-so-cleverly disguised as a lame comedy, not a documentary or expose on corporate America. Movie reviews are supposed to be about the movie, not about the particular bones the review author would like to pick.

    • What the hell kind of a "review" was that?

      It was a review aimed at Slashdotters. It picked up on points directly relevant to Slashdotters. And it was posted on Slashdot.

      There are plenty of non-specialist reviews available elsewhere &mdash I fail to see the problem.

  • Just as Hollywood injected scenes of drunken programming into “The Social Network”, Hollywood can’t seem to believe that software is made with logic, precision and concentration.

    Duh. This is the same Hollywood that gave us the (horrible) scene in The Net where Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) does a "whois" query that results in a picture of a guy's driver's license. Sure, I get it. Day-to-day CS work is not very exciting or photogenic, but it (often) involves real work.

    • Duh. This is the same Hollywood that gave us the (horrible) scene in The Net where Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) does a "whois" query that results in a picture of a guy's driver's license. Sure, I get it. Day-to-day CS work is not very exciting or photogenic, but it (often) involves real work.

      Have a little look back at early cinema, and you'll see lots of symbolic devices to indicate time passing, emotions and other such things that can't be easily shown literally. In many ways, modern cinema is weaker for this, as it's all too easy for time to get rather disjointed. Computers are pretty abstract, and cannot be portrayed literally in a film. It's only sensible that some artistic license be applied.

      The Net was pretty crap, so I don't really recall it that well, but I only remember one proper c

  • Hollywood can’t seem to believe that software is made with logic, precision and concentration

    Most software leaves users with the feeling it was slapped together by a rowdy group of inebriated teenagers, so it's not surprising hollywood feels that way. Of course, the problem is usually poor management practices and not alcohol, so truth is more boring than fiction in this case.

  • tells me as a NeXT/Apple alum how glad I am I never worked at Google. Beer bash fridays, volleyball and social interactions espousing creative ideas were the best times.
  • the movie that is. as someone in the software industry closing on 40, i find myself pondering just these topics. if/when i choose to look for other job opportunities in the field (some change is nice sometimes), where will i go and what will it be with all the 20 something geniuses (who are that or think they are) and how to fit in all that.. or how to find anything and to believe it will last etc..

    so i just find it great someone made a movie where i can relate to something. of course it might not relate to

  • > Arthur Rock, Mike Markkula and Andy Grove put up plenty of money to fund Apple Computer

    I'd never heard that Andy Grove had funded Apple. Markkula sure.

    Is this true? I can't find it mentioned elsewhere. Interesting tidbit if true.

    --Q

  • It would have been a better movie if the guys ended up in the ad sales side of Google. Most Google employees are ad sales reps. That side of the company is more like Mad Men.

    Read "Drugstore Cowboy" [wired.com], which has more of the story about how an FBI sting operation caught Google accepting ads from drug dealers. Google paid $500 million (yes, half a billion dollars) to avoid criminal prosecution for that. It wasn't about Canadian pharmacies. It was about a Mexican drug dealer selling steroids (sometimes fake

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