In terms of character, David Fincher's The Social Network didn't do Mark Zuckerberg any favors. Lead Jesse Eisenberg portrays the Facebook ( FB ) CEO as a conniving, backstabbing, prideful jerk who very well may have stolen much of the idea behind "The Facebook" from people who trusted him.
However, Facebook comes off looking like the most important product since the inception of the Internet. Even from the start of that incredible trailer and the first few bars of the Radiohead cover, you knew this was about something big. Something bigger than all of us.
Now, compare that to the image of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson wearing Google ( GOOG ) propeller beanies at an internship meet-and-greet in 2013. Not only do you feel embarrassed for the stars, the whole movie sets Mountain View back about 10 years.
This week, the Slobs vs. Snobs comedy romp-slash-Google ad The Internship premieres to the delight of very few. Hoping to re-spark the chemistry they had in 2005's Wedding Crashers , Vaughn and Wilson star as 40-somethings trying to figure out this whole "Internet cloud" thing by becoming interns at a company widely considered to be one of the best places to work, Google.
Based on early reviews (surprise!) the movie isn't anything more than a middling-to-low comedic effort that will most likely serve as Sunday afternoon TBS fodder four years from now. But the sharpness of the script aside, it's baffling how Google would think it would look bright or hip or relevant while serving as the setting to a Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson comedy in 2013.
Take, for example, the Q&A lightning round scene led by Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi where he asks a group of fresh-faced interns whether it's appropriate to date one another or even have a drink with their boss. Except for the two leads, they all answer no, it isn't appropriate. So not only does Google seem out of touch, it also appears shackled to corporate protocol lest the slightest bit of casual human interaction disrupt the puritanical workplace code of conduct enforced by HR .
This is supposed to be one of the best places to work?
But the hits keep coming. Interns must compete in a series of what the leads call "Mental Hunger Games" to land full-time positions with the company. And that involves, no joke, a game of Quidditch, because nothing is more relevant than a Harry Potter reference.
These are supposed to be the same folks behind Google Glass?!
Director Shawn Levy admitted that the film isn't a "documentary on Google" and Google is merely a backdrop to the flights of folly of the two main characters. So why bother involving Google at all? Couldn't it have easily been a Google surrogate that the audience could interpret as Google -- similar to how every TV character does a Web search on WebSearch.com or SiteFinder.net? Why would Google risk negative product placement and end up looking as lame as McDonald's ( MCD ) did in the ET rip-off Mac and Me ?
Just like its Vaughn-Wilson team-up, the Google backdrop just feels dated and hurts the company's image. Had this premiered in the early-to-mid 2000s (preferably on the "early" side) the setting and references might've worked better. But considering this is the same company whose omnipresence is undeniable, whose mobile division has pulled ahead of iOS ( AAPL ) in terms of global market share, whose products are pushing the very limits of modern online apps, it's a glaring misstep in 2013.
Speaking of Apple, there's a chance that the long-awaited Steve Jobs biopic Jobs will be released the same year as The Internship . Already having earned mixed-to-negative reviews from its Sundance screening, the film has been repeatedly delayed and doesn't currently have a firm release date. Critics have lambasted Ashton Kutcher's ham-fisted portrayal of Jobs as an alternatingly cruel Machiavellian entrepreneur who deserts his pregnant girlfriend and a technological deity who crushed Microsoft ( MSFT ) and IBM (IBM) to become a god among men.
But like The Social Network before it, Jobs may look like a jerk, but Apple comes out looking pretty important.
And that's more than you can say for Google's image, thanks to The Internship .