Friday, May 25, 2018
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Google is real star of new movie 'The Internship'

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. 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 a couple of 40-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.

Although the movie does have some good-natured fun at the expense of the intelligent oddballs working at Google, it mostly focuses on the positive side of a company whose motto is "don't be evil."

Likening Google to an Oz-like oasis isn't totally farfetched. The company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., does sometimes seem like a fantasy-land — a cross between a surreal think tank and a college campus sheltered from the worries and hardship of the world around it.

To make Google seem even more mystical, the movie's director, Shawn Levy, said he filmed the first 15 minutes or so of the movie in dull, bland colors. That way, the bright reds, yellows and greens splattered across the company's headquarters seem even more vibrant.

In some instances, it's not really Google's headquarters. Much of the movie was filmed at Georgia Tech and other parts of the Atlanta area.

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 dark portrait of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

Although he said he didn't set out to make an ode to Google, Levy leaves little doubt about his admiration for the company.

"I realized what they're about is really a certain quality of personhood that, yes, has to do with intelligence, but has as much to do with ethical soundness and compassion and a sense of trying to do more good than harm in this world," Levy said.

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