The happiest place on Earth? Once upon a time, it was Disneyland: Splash Mountain. It's a Small World. Trans fats. Plaid shorts.
Today? Google: Free fruit, game rooms, wool caps, data collection, a profit-sharing plan in the future.
The future? In "The Internship," which opens Friday, a future is what wristwatch salesmen Billy and Nick do not think they have. Played by "Wedding Crashers" stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, they are fired by their boss (John Goodman) in a volley of invective. "You're dinosaurs!" Goodman bellows.
No, actually, they're salesmen. They just have to sell themselves to Google. There, they inveigle their way into internships, scheme for full-time employment, and clash with the nerds. "As a card-carrying nerd," said cast member actor Josh Brener, "I can vouch for the fact that it all rings true."
Brener's character, the socially awkward (aren't they all) Lile, is just one of a crowd of much younger people with whom Billy and Nick have to contend, kids possessing the kind of casual familiarity with state-of-the-art technology and computer language the older guys feel they can never achieve.
Schmoozers vs. techies
Nick and Billy, however, know how to deal with people, an area in which the computer savants have a learning deficiency.
"It's such a symbiosis," said Brener. "Both parties enter into the intergenerational relationship with trepidation, wary of the other's lack of pertinent skills; both sides discover there's a lot to learn from everyone." Slicksters Nick and Billy are "people people," Brener said, but "we do things with computers they can't begin to imagine are possible."
"The Internship," written by Vaughn and Jared Stern ("Wreck-It Ralph") and directed by Shawn Levy ("Night at the Museum" 1, 2 and the upcoming 3), takes rather predictable turns toward its characters' self-realization. It gives Vaughn and Wilson plenty of wisecracks. And provides nifty product placement for Google.
"They should be happy," laughed Tiya Sircar, who plays Neha Patel, an overachieving child of Indian immigrants. ("I'm not her," Sircar says, "but I know who she is.") The "kids," as they were called, were careful not to "screw anything up," Sircar said, while trying to create convincing computer geeks.
"These people really exist," she said, "especially at a place like Google. Everybody is the smartest kid at your school." Google, which for four years has ranked No. 1 on the annual Fortune list of best companies to work for, was re-created by the film's production designers in Atlanta. Naturally, the cast took pictures and posted via Instagram.
"I don't want to call out Vince and Owen," said Sircar, "but I don't think Vince or Owen have Instagram. They don't tweet. They're probably not on Facebook. Definitely, the generational divide was very real."
So was the scope of experience: In "The Internship," a lot of the cast were interns themselves -- at least in the world of acting.
"I have been lucky enough to be working for a little," said Sircar. "But this is definitely the biggest opportunity I've had. That was how we hit it off, the 'kids.' It was like, 'How did this happen?'"
Brener, best known for the TBS series "Glory Daze," has appeared on "The Big Bang Theory" and is currently appearing on the Mark Maron IFC comedy series "Maron." He's also, clearly, a politic dude. ("I have honestly never used Bing," he said. "Never even typed it into my laptop.") But it's a big break for him, too.
Going to the real Google
The real babe in the woods, however, was Tobit Raphael, who graduated from the UCLA film and theater program two years ago, never even had a one-line part on a TV show, and then won the role of the anxiety-ridden, eyebrow-plucking "Noogler" (for "new Googler") Yo-Yo Santos.
"Oh my God," said Raphael, "I've been wanting to do comedy for years and work with these two amazing comedians. I mean, the 'Wedding Crashers' chemistry is real." Excitement can get the better of you: When the cast moved from their frolicsome, months-long shoot at the faux-Google in Atlanta to a two-week shoot at the real Google in Mountain View, Calif., "I had to pull myself back from jumping on the slide."
Going to the real Google, said Brener, "was sort of like entering the Promised Land after 40 years of buildup."
"We'd been on this very nice college campus," he said of Georgia Tech, "then suddenly you're in the belly of the beast. You'd talk to people and say, 'Oh, so what do you do?,' and they'd say, 'Oh, I code the stuff you use every day of your life. You're welcome.'"