Making the Grades
If the movie The Social Network was a Public Service Announcement exposing the dark side of the friendliest site on the Internet, then The Internship is one long recruitment ad for Google. Who wouldn’t want a job on Google’s colorful campus where the food is free, naptime is encouraged and volleyball games are a regular part of the corporate workweek. And thanks to a non-legislated form of affirmative action in this movie script, even uneducated, has-been salesmen get a chance at earning a spot in the youth oriented workplace.
Vince Vaughn (who wrote the story) and Owen Wilson, two Hollywood actors that have made a career playing aging adolescents, star as a couple of recently unemployed watch salesmen. While moaning over his bad luck, Billy (Vaughn) stumbles upon an application for a summer internship at Google. After enrolling at the University of Phoenix in order to meet the current student status requirement, each of them actually scores one of the coveted internships at the Internet company. Without any adult commitments like a house (Billy’s was repossessed), a romantic partner (Billy’s girlfriend dumped him), or job (Nick leaves his new job selling mattresses), the two business buddies are free to pack up and move to a cheap hotel near the campus. From day one, the pair attempt to prove their prowess among a herd of young, highly educated overachievers.
Unfortunately even among the extremely gifted geeks, there are “losers” and when it comes time to form teams, Billy and Nick (Owen Wilson) are among the last pickings left to join forces with other nerdy outcasts (Tiya Sircar, Dylan O’Brien, Tobit Raphael).
For a brief instant this film starts to say something about teamwork, the wonders of seeing things firsthand instead of on a digital screen and the value of life experience in a society that increasingly glorifies youth. But the glimmer of hope for profound thought in this comedy is squashed when Nick and Billy decide to take their junior members out on the town to see what the city’s nightlife looks like. As is to be expected, these older men seemingly believe the pervasive pubescent notion that teamwork and adulthood can only be fully achieved with copious amounts of alcohol and sexual acts. (In this case the action takes place inside a strip joint with a troupe of scantily clad women that perform more than just dance moves on a stage.) Nick and Billy also apply a heavy dose of peer pressure to one young man who subsequently loses all inhibitions and common sense. Luckily the night’s activities don’t hamper this boy’s ability to quickly program all the code needed for a group project the next day.
The other problem is that while Billy and Nick mold this group of misfits into a cohesive and positive group, they aren’t opposed to breaking Google’s intern rules. Taking food home from the cafeteria might be a minor infraction, but dating another Google employee should be reason for dismissal according to the script. Neither of these violations have any later consequences in the story, so it’s hard to understand why the screenwriters make a big deal of them in the opening scenes.
Well-stocked with product placements, The Internship has a few funny and yes, almost heartfelt moments mixed in among the crude banter and mean-spirited competitions that take place on campus. But unfortunately this team’s wild night out on the town, along with a multitude of other sexually suggestive comments, a strong sexual expletive and dozens of profanities mean these two prospective employees don’t deserve to make the shortlist for family viewing.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Internship.
Billy and Nick stop one of their teammates from sending a picture of his male anatomy to a girl. What repercussions can this kind of exposure have on a person in the future? Could pictures of drunken parties, illegal activities or other bad behaviors influence possible prospects with employers or college application officers? Why is it important to remember that once a picture is posted a person no longer has control over who sees it?
Why does Billy seem to continually sabotage his success? Can it be easy to think things will get better in the future without actually doing things in the present to help make that happen?
What do these two buddies teach their teammates about working together? What life experience do they bring to the team? How do their skills help the team succeed? Are their things that can only be learned by living through them?
How has the digital age affected the way we see the world? Do people spend too much time looking at life through a screen rather than seeing it in first person? Although people can be connected to others around the world with the use of new technology, how can these same devices also isolate them from others?
What do these interns learn about the importance of people—especially those who seem to be less important than them?