Jewish World Review June 20, 2013/ 12 Tammuz, 5773
Real Google doesn’t mean real giggles
By Barry Koltnow
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) It is not appropriate to make jokes at a funeral.
However, it is entirely appropriate to make jokes in a movie that is supposed to be a comedy.
This may explain some of the problems with the "The Internship."
If you are as obsessed with box office numbers as we are, you probably know that Hollywood is all abuzz over the opening weekend's performance of the Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson alleged comedy. I use the term "alleged" because there is no hard evidence that this was intended to be a comedy.
The movie came in a disappointing fourth, behind the low-budget thriller "The Purge" and two holdovers, "Fast & Furious 6" and "Now You See Me."
Although billed as a comedy, "The Internship" felt more like an infomercial for Google.
Or worse, it could more aptly be described as a drama, which is not how a comedy wants to be described.
I really hate it when I'm right, but I hinted in a story that "The Internship" might face adversity at the box office because it takes itself too seriously. I suggested that it resembled what Hollywood disdainfully refers to as a "message movie."
Message movies are box office poison. Nobody wants to be lectured to at the movies. Nobody wants to learn anything at the movies. That's why they invented schools. If learning was supposed to be fun in the dark with tubs of buttery popcorn, teachers would look like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
I warned director Shawn Levy that his movie might have a message, and he didn't flinch. He even boasted that "The Internship" had something to say. I knew he was in trouble when he said that.
I apologize. I have been discussing "The Internship" as if you had seen it, and we know by the weak box office numbers that you probably have not seen it.
The big draw was the reunion of Vaughn and Wilson after their 2005 hit "Wedding Crashers." That film, in case you've forgotten, was an actual comedy with a lot of laughs and no messages.
In "The Internship," Vaughn and Wilson traded in their law practice for failing careers as watch salesmen. They are described as "analog men in a digital age," and they soon are digitally downsized right out of their analog jobs. You can see the potential for big laughs in an atmosphere of recession and massive layoffs.
Anyway, they decide to apply for internships at tech giant Google. Although the company usually picks young genius types for its internship program, they inexplicably accept two unqualified middle-age watch salesmen. But if it wasn't for illogic, there would be no basis for movie comedy.
Director Levy told me that when Vaughn came to him with the idea for "The Internship," the filmmaker asked if Vaughn intended to enlist Google's cooperation in the venture, or use a fictional tech company. Vaughn insisted, and Levy seconded the notion, that it was Google or nothing.
And that was their first mistake.
It did add an air of realism, but the comedy was doomed as soon as Google agreed to be part of the project. "The Internship" was never meant to be an expose, but there was no way the movie could retain its edgy humor once corporate deflector shields went up.
Levy said he showed the final film to Google executives and they responded favorably. That should have come as no surprise since Google already had made script suggestions during the filmmaking process.
I am not faulting Google's interest in protecting its brand. It would be foolhardy to do otherwise. I am faulting Levy, Vaughn and Wilson in pursuing Google's involvement. Once Google invited the filmmakers to its Northern California campus, it would have been ill-mannered for the filmmakers to be anything but polite guests. And no good comedy was ever mined in a field of politeness.
The filmmakers guessed wrong that people would find it interesting to see the real Google campus. For the exorbitant cost of movie tickets these days, people would rather laugh. The Google campus should be saved for a TV travelogue.
Google's involvement wasn't the only problem, of course. No one can blame the tech giant for a poorly written script that was long on predictability and short on jokes.
Still, comedy is subjective, and I'm sure somebody thought the movie was hilarious, although I suspect that most of those people work on the Google campus. Geeks know technology; they don't know comedy.
Hopefully, this will be a learning experience for future filmmakers. If you're making a documentary, go for realism. If you're making a comedy, go for the laughs. If that means that you have to make believe, movie-goers can live with that. It wouldn't be the first time that Hollywood faked it..
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