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.
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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 two forty-something guys who become clueless interns at Google after losing their jobs selling a product — wristwatches — supplanted by innovation.
Everyone enamored with Google 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 to participate, but the film conjures an imaginary curriculum for the sake of entertainment.
Amid the fictional high jinks, 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.
Likening Google to an Oz-like oasis isn’t totally far-fetched. The company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., does sometimes seem like a fantasyland — a cross between a surreal think tank and a college campus sheltered from the worries and hardship of the world around it.
One of the movie’s producers, Sandra J. Smith, used to work in the tech industry and tapped into some of those connections to set up the early meetings with Google. The company agreed to help out with the movie, without any veto power over the script, after Levy promised Google officials the movie wouldn’t be cynical or mean-spirited.
Just as Google didn’t pay for its products to appear in the movie, filmmakers didn’t pay for Google’s assistance or access to its headquarters.
Google’s cooperation stands in contrast to Facebook’s refusal to participate in the making of “The Social Network,” a 2010 film that drew a darker portrait of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg.
“The Internship” doesn’t directly mention Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, though Brin makes two short appearances playing himself. Brin is seen cruising around the Google grounds when the characters played by Vaughn and Wilson arrive to start their internship. Brin also appears near the end of the movie to congratulate the interns.
The first appearance wasn’t even in the script, according to Levy. The director said he simply saw a bearded guy riding around Google’s headquarters on an elliptical bicycle while wearing clothing better suited for yoga. When someone told Levy who that person was, he asked Brin if he could film him. Brin obliged.