Three out of five stars
That probably doesn’t sound promising, though "The Intern" isn't as bad as my exasperation might make it seem. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers -- who gave us the 2009 Meryl Streep-Alec Baldwin midlife romantic comedy "It's Complicated" -- "The Intern" stars Robert De Niro as Ben Whittaker, an incredibly classy, retired widower who served as an executive for a company that printed phone books. Bored with retirement, Ben learns of an internship program for retirees and decides to give it a shot.
That's when Ben meets Jules, who founded and runs the Web-based clothing company seeking senior interns. Anne Hathaway plays Jules, whom Meyers attempts to make colorful and interesting by forcing Jules' employees to fear her, even though Jules never really displays fearsome behavior -- in fact, there is absolutely nothing scary about her. Jules also has a handsome and seemingly understanding husband, played by Anders Holm (TV's "Workaholics"), and an adorable daughter, portrayed by 7-year-old first-time actress JoJo Kushner.
As Ben’s backstory unfolds, we learn the most interesting thing about him is he’s played by Robert De Niro. Likewise, the most interesting thing about Jules is she’s played by Anne Hathaway.
Everything that happens in this movie smacks of Meyers trying to force her characters, through attributes and dialog, into seeming likeable and hip. Giving advice to his much younger supervisor seeking advice about a co-worker in whom he’s interested, Ben quips, “You didn’t talk to her? What did ya do, send her a tweet?”
A little later, we watch Ben attempting to set up a Facebook account. We get it: he's a 70-year-old trying to adapt to the modern world, but Meyers is a bit overzealous and clumsy with how she handles it. Likewise, while the idea of Jules is admirable, her character feels manufactured. Look, who wouldn’t respect a young woman who creates a wildly successful start-up? Who wouldn’t empathize with her daily balancing act between job, family and health? If only it seemed organic, with some real, dramatic tension and not so, well, clumsy.
Having said all that, Meyers was not clumsy with her casting. De Niro and Hathaway’s very real chemistry is enjoyable and transcends "The Intern's" many shortcomings. De Niro, in particular, again sheds his tough-guy veneer and is convincing as a wise, dapper grandfather from Brooklyn who was never really ready to retire.