"Watches are obsolete, and so are you."
That's the brutal assessment salesmen Billy McMahon and Nick Campbell receive from their employer, Sammy Boscoe, who abruptly informs them that he's closing up shop. In the computer age, no one needs a watch, he says. And, rubbing salt in the wound, no one needs manufacturers' sales reps either.
"People want to deal with people, not Terminators," Nick protests. "People hate people," Sammy counters, suggesting that Billy and Nick are dinosaurs doomed to extinction. So it's against this backdrop of vocational annihilation that Nick goes to work for his sister's boyfriend selling mattresses. And Billy goes … online.
"Sales jobs," he Googles. "Jobs for people with no skills." Then, in a flash of inspiration, he Googles … Google. Moments later, an unlikely idea is born.
"You got us jobs at Google?!" Nick gushes. Actually … not quite. More like: Work for no pay as a summer intern. Looking at the registration form, Nick notes that it's only for college students. But Billy, ever the salesman, is one step ahead. He's already enrolled them online at the University of Phoenix, "the Harvard of Internet colleges."
As unlikely as it seems, the manic salesmen-turned-would-be-Internet-impresarios sell themselves to the Google intern selection committee—where, it's deemed, a pair of oddball middle-aged salesmen would add some diversity to the proceedings.
And so they do. In some good ways … and some not so good.
Arriving at Googleplex HQ outside of San Francisco is like arriving at a high-tech employment promised land. There are sleep pods for hardworking employees. Free coffee and food. Slides. Rocket planes hanging from the ceiling. There's also fierce competition among the interns, who are divided up into teams of five for a summer-long competition. The winning team's golden Google ticket? Jobs when they graduate.
Not surprisingly, no one wants the aging salesmen on their team. And so Billy and Nick get lumped in with three other "leftovers": world-weary Stewart Twombly, who's cynical beyond his years; Twilight fan fiction fan Neha Patel; and Yo-Yo Santas, a sheltered homeschooler who was breastfed by his mom until he was … 7. Rounding out their team is 23-year-old Google mentor Lyle Spaulding, who's as adept at Google-speak as he is inept at everything else.
Slowly, the group begins to gel—as does Nick's budding romance with a Google manager named Dana. Fighting them at every step, however, is an arrogant intern named Graham who derides Billy and Nick's "confederacy of outcasts" as having no conceivable chance of winning. And then there's the head of Google's internship program, Mr. Chetty, who isn't too keen on the middle-aged interns' unorthodox antics either.
Hmmm. Maybe Mr. Chetty should apply for a job at Plugged In.
Billy and Nick's relationship has stood the test of time, and these two friends believe in each other. When one's down, the other encourages him. And they absolutely refuse to roll over and die, vocationally speaking, as Sammy said they would. Slowly, they convince the young interns around them that a couple of old dudes really do have something to offer, and their influence over the team is key to helping them in the competition. One Google employee tells Billy, "You have a way with people," which he then says is a "lost art."
Billy and Nick challenge their team members to see that there's more to life than "a four-inch screen," encouraging them to look up and see what's around them. In this sense, the film suggests that older people have something to teach those who've grown up in a tech-drenched world. It also communicates, of course, that there's more to life than what we encounter on a computer.
At one point, Billy encourages Neha, who's never had a boyfriend, in the way a loving older brother might do. He tells her that she's smart and pretty, and that someday she'll attract a nice guy. Elsewhere, Dana eventually sees past Nick's goofy personality and reciprocates his romantic interest.
One of the film's more sober moments come when the interns try to help the older guys understand why they're so anxious about winning jobs at Google. Twenty-five percent of college grads can't get jobs, says one. Nothing is guaranteed, says another. And someone else quips that while Billy and Nick's generation had a legitimate shot at the American Dream, it's really just a dream—and an unreachable one—for them. Billy and Nick hear them, but set an example that with hard work, determination and creativity, the chance for success still exists.
Billy and Nick decide that their high-strung teammates (several of which are possibly not even of legal drinking age) need to unwind. So they try to take them to a dance club … which turns out to be a strip club. Women gyrate in lingerie throughout the lengthy scene. Yo-Yo receives three lap dances, and after each we see him in the bathroom drying off his pants. Billy's advice? Wear two pairs of underwear next time, giving him props for his "reboot time." Lyle, meanwhile, connects with a lingerie-wearing dancer who's also taught dance lessons at Google, and the two become a couple.
Before going to the club, Neha talks repeatedly about S&M, bondage and other kinky sexual practices. At the club, she's very nervous, and Billy realizes she's never done any of the things she's bragged about. Instead, she confesses, she's lived them all in her imagination, courtesy of the erotica (she mentions Twilight fan fiction) she's read.
At first, Billy is living with a woman … who leaves him after he loses his job. Nick and Dana become a couple, and it's implied that they spend the night together. (We see them kiss.) Billy and Nick are shown in bed together in a hotel room (though the film never suggests anything beyond their platonic friendship). Neha says of gay marriage, "Same-sex partners are excellent parents. I so wish my parents were gay."
Throughout, various crude and lewd references to all manner of sexual activity turn up. We hear (mostly jokes) about anal sex, group sex, manual stimulation, premature ejaculation, sexting, breast implants, penis size and testicles. Sammy brags about buying new breast implants for his wife, whose ridiculously enlarged bikini-clad physique is seen. Billy and Graham have a tense verbal confrontation in towels in a sauna.
A brawl erupts at the strip club, resulting in Billy, Nick and the rest of the team getting tossed out. In the midst of getting throttled, Yo-Yo yells, "My mother hits me harder than that." Elsewhere, several people get punched (in the face, in the stomach, in the crotch). A Quidditch game includes some rough tackling.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word and about 25 s-words. "A‑‑" or "a‑‑hole" are used a combined 15 times. We hear "h‑‑‑" a dozen times, as well as "b‑‑ch" and "d‑‑n" about 10 times each. "D‑‑k" is said twice, "p‑‑‑y" once. God's name is misused a dozen times, four times with "d‑‑n." Jesus' name is misused three times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
A number of scenes revolve around drinking beer, wine and hard-liquor shots. At the strip club, everybody gets plastered. Among other things, they knock back tequila shots, with Billy and Nick coaching and prodding the sheltered Yo-Yo. The next morning, the younger interns are hung over, and one vomits in a bucket. Their group binge results in brainstorming an app to help keep people from drunk-texting and saying or doing something inappropriate.
Mr. Chetty emphasizes that the interns will not be drinking beer with employees—a rule Billy challenges. Billy also jokes in that conversation about smoking marijuana with Mr. Chetty (who isn't amused). Twice, Billy and Nick celebrate by buying a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve bourbon.
Other Negative Elements
Billy and Nick may technically be enrolled in college, but they're clearly not "going" to school. They also make up a story about working with a social program ("Kids Helping Kids") intended to help "suburban kids know what it feels like to be homeless."
Various people—including those who are overweight, "geeks," Native Americans, tall Lithuanians, a wheelchair-bound man and those with Alzheimer's—are the butt of meanspirited jokes. A conversation revolves around Yo-Yo having breastfed from his mother until he was 7. Passing reference is made to "dog s‑‑‑" getting on mattresses in a store.
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have occasionally starred in serious films. More often, however, they've reverted to the types of roles each could play in his sleep. For Vaughn, that's the lovable, extroverted, blowhard know-it-all. For Wilson, it's the lovable, extroverted, over-the-top goofball. The Internship finds them reprising those familiar roles, this time dialing their Wedding Crashers comedy shtick down to PG-13 levels … barely.
They're ill equipped to navigate the alien world of Google, of course. And that's the point here. Still, they work hard to learn new skills even as the youngsters who already have those skills learn to appreciate the intangible assets that two old salesmen bring to the table.
All of that is designed to yield a feel-good underdog story draped in high-tech duds. Despite the film's sweet moments, however, it's hard to feel too good about a story that can't go more than a few minutes without gratuitous sexual crudity. We're meant to laugh off Billy and Nick taking a bunch of college kids to a strip club, for instance. We're meant to guffaw when Will Ferrell shows up in a cameo role as a seedy mattress salesmen waxing eloquent about how "back door" sex has been a "life changer" for him.
In the end, it's a hostile working environment that Google really ought to do something about. Or should I say 20th Century Fox?
A postscript: Speaking of Google, The Internship delivers something of a 2-hour commercial for the search giant. Specific products get name-dropped all over the place even as employees wax eloquent about the company's purported goals, such as translating every word ever written into every language on earth. Though there's no blatant spiritual content in the film, the filmmakers paint a portrait of a company that brims with missionary-level zeal, treating it like a high-tech utopia, a dot-com paradise. Indeed, I'm hard-pressed to think of any film so completely devoted to depicting a real-world company in such a glowing light. It's a silicon-minded state of affairs that prompted Hollywood Reporter reviewer Stephen Farber to describe the movie as an "occasionally likable romp that plays more like a love letter to Google."