A movie worth… Googling

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODFUN - ANDY GOLD­BERG

IN THE an­nals of Hol­ly­wood movie his­tory, the great Amer­i­can work­place is most of­ten seen as a de­press­ing, bor­ing and soul­less en­vi­ron­ment, where work­ers are treated al­most like slaves and bosses are cruel, petty, ra­pa­cious and ruth­less.

The stereo­types are cen­tral to movies like Char­lie Chap­lin’s Mod­ern Times (1936), through to films like Net­work ( 1976) and Ge­orge Clooney’s Up in the Air (2010).

But, the lat­est work­place movie, The In­tern­ship, which opened in South African cinemas yes­ter­day, is the com­plete op­po­site, paint­ing work­place life at a mod­ern tech­nol­ogy com­pany as a fun-filled mer­i­toc­racy, where work­ers and bosses are sym­pa­thetic, and where the perks are so good you never want to leave.

The film rekin­dles the Wed­ding Crash­ers “bro­mance” be­tween Vince Vaughn and Owen Wil­son, who in The In­tern­ship star as a cou­ple of old-school watch sales­men who de­cide to ap­ply to Google when they are fired from their jobs.

They be­come Nooglers (“New Googlers” for those un­fa­mil­iar with the lo­cal speech terms at the cult­like com­pany), where their ef­forts to shine among 1 500 20-some­thing braini­acs are an apt and of­ten amus­ing metaphor for the strug­gles many older folk face in adapt­ing to a fast-mov­ing dig­i­tal world, where youth is prized above all. They run af­ter a car to ask di­rec­tions, only to dis­cover it’s one of the com­pany’s driver­less ve­hi­cles, and they dodge a bearded guy in yoga pants on a scooter – a cameo role for Google’s bil­lion­aire founder Sergey Brin.

The ap­pear­ance of Brin un­der­lines the im­mense co- op­er­a­tion Google gave to di­rec­tor Shawn Levy, whose work on A Night at the Mu­seum ap­par­ently con­vinced the com­pany that he was ca­pa­ble of de­pict­ing large in­sti­tu­tions in a sym­pa­thetic light.

The film takes an un­even ap­proach to the ac­cu­racy of its

The In­tern­ship. de­pic­tion of the web soft­ware gi­ant. It’s true, for in­stance, that Google hires 1 500 of the bright­est col­lege stu­dents in the US ev­ery year, but it does not pit them against each other in ul­tra-com­pet­i­tive games as de­picted in the movie.

The movie’s arch- vil­lain, an ar­ro­gant Bri­tish in­tern, would also prob­a­bly never be ac­cepted at Google, com­pany in­sid­ers say.

The film seems to take the com­pany’s motto of Don’t Be Evil at face value, and never even touches on oft- heard com­plaints about Google’s pri­vacy breaches and mo­nop­o­li­sa­tion of web searches.

Though Google did not have veto power over any scenes, it did voice reser­va­tions over an episode in which the driver­less car crashes – an in­ci­dent which be­lied the ve­hi­cles’ ex­em­plary safety record.

Google granted the film-mak­ers un­par­al­leled ac­cess to its staff and the Google­plex – its com­plex of lux­u­ri­ously ap­pointed build­ings that are the firm’s Sil­i­con Val­ley head­quar­ters. The com­pany’s col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach was in marked con­trast to the de­ci­sion of Face­book to ig­nore and ob­struct the mak­ers of the last big tech-themed movie, The So­cial Net­work.

But, though Google comes out of the movie as a sort of work­place par­adise for smart 20-some­things, the com­pany said it had agreed to co-op­er­ate not to bur­nish its im­age, but to get more kids in­ter­ested in com­puter science.

“The rea­son we got in­volved in that is be­cause com­puter science has a mar­ket­ing prob­lem,” Google chief ex­ec­u­tive Larry Page said last month at a con­fer­ence for pro­gram­mers in San Fran­cisco. “We are the nerdy cur­mud­geons.”

Page said the movie’s coolest char­ac­ter was a head­phone-wear­ing, mostly silent en­gi­neer who ends up play­ing a key role in the cli­mac­tic scene. – Sapa-dpa

WHACKY DUO: Owen Wil­son and Vince Vaughn are tech­no­log­i­cally chal­lenged in

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