The Google Crashers: A Review of The Internship

I wouldn’t normally see a Frat Pack comedy in theaters. That’s what mainscreen entertainment on United Airlines flights is for. But as a Google alum, I was curious to watch the The Internship. So I went to see it this weekend, with a group of current and former Googlers. Spoiler alert: It’s terrible

[Update 7/1/2013: Since BI decided to link to this post, and at least one person who worked on the movie took offense, I’ve revisited this and have some clarifications.

I regret the use of the word ‘terrible’. From a craft perspective the movie is actually very well-made. The BI writer is correct in saying that my objections pertain to sociology, not moviemaking. But when the movie mocks ‘my people’ as laughable stereotypes, I take that personally.

There is PLENTY to poke fun at in Silicon Valley. Our inflated sense of self-importance, for one. In fact, the best moment of the movie is when Max Minghella’s character, assembling his rival team, asks an intern:

- “Where did you go to school?”
"The University of-"
- “No”. 

That had the ring of truth to it. It was a deft poke at Google’s (former?) obsession with academic excellence. 

But the movie made too few forays down that path, and instead went mostly for stereotype-pandering, especially of women. If you’re offended by my review then I’m sorry, but I’m also offended by your movie…

To an ex-Googler the movie may be mildly entertaining. Not because it’s particularly funny, but as an extended game of “spot the cafeteria”. And I don’t mind the obvious nonsense, such as the Hunger Games-like intern job competition, or the apparent lack of any distinction between different roles at a company. I can stomach those as fictions necessary to create a story. No, what makes The Internship excruciating is the lazy pandering to every imaginable Silicon Valley stereotype. 

Nerd Alert

Asian math genius in thrall to a tiger mom? Check. Over-accented older Indian man in a sweater vest? Check. Nerds with poor social skills? Check. And, worst of all, sexually repressed female executive in need of a good shagging from Owen Wilson? You betcha.

In the regressive world of The Internship, if you’re a CS grad, the only way you can be conventionally attractive or good at sports is to be an antagonistic, cartoonishly evil brogrammer like Max Minghella’s character, and if you’re a woman, the only way you can gain seniority is to give up any semblance of a social life. Lean in on that, Sheryl Sandberg!

And forget about social skills - no one in this movie has friends, a relationship, empathy, powers of persuasion or basic teamworking ability, unless coached into them by the bros from Wedding Crashers. 

The lovable band of misfits may technically be the heroes, but they exist primarily so that Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn can condescend to them. All this does is reinforce every preconception outsiders have about the tech industry, and indeed every preconception non-engineers inside the tech industry have about their engineer colleagues.

Women Need Not Apply

However the worst thing about The Internship may be its treatment of female sexuality. We’re offered three insulting stereotypes: Rose Byrne’s aforementioned repressed executive, Jessica Szohr’s stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold, and the one interesting character in the entire movie: intern Neha Patel (ably played by Tiya Sircar, who deserves to be in a better movie).

Neha projects confident sexuality, so obviously it gets played for laughs (she’s into cosplay and hentai, naturally). And to top it all off, she ends up confiding to Vince Vaughn, in the creepiest scene of the movie, that she’s not as experienced as she pretends to be. My feelings were split between anger at the inability to allow a female character to own her sexuality and horror at the prospect of Vaughn making a move on her.

If I were a woman considering a career in tech, this movie would send me running for the hills.  

Thumbs Down

The Internship portrays Google, and by extension the industry, as a nerd’s fantasy camp (OK, that part is true…) populated exclusively by douchebags and people on the Autism spectrum. Newsflash! Many engineers are normal, well-adjusted people with hobbies and interests that go well beyond muggle quidditch. Some of us are women! Some of us like movies other than The X-Men!

Few of us, however, will like this one.