The Intern Review: Anne Hathaway, Robert De Niro’s Lukewarm Comedy Gets 2 and a Half Stars

Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro
Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro's comedy The Intern is "lukewarm," writes Us Weekly's film critic Mara Reinstein Warner Bros.

In theaters Friday, Sept. 25

2 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)

Mom and Dad will love it.

But perhaps hold off on anointing this lukewarm comedy as a future Girls' Night In classic. Despite an appealing premise — Anne Hathaway attempts to successfully Lean In while wearing gorgeous cashmere sweaters — this doesn’t quite get the job done. That is, unless the job is to learn to appreciate your elders.

It does, however, provide the welcome sight of a gleaming Hathaway in the genre that put her on the movie map. Her Jules Ostrow is the founder and head honcho of About the Fit, a popular fashion e-commerce site located in a renovated Brooklyn warehouse. Hardworking and detail-oriented (she teaches staffers exactly how to fold clothes into a box), Jules is usually the last person to leave the office. Then she comes home to her adorable-but-needy husband and precocious daughter in a cozy brownstone.

Though she’s loathed to admit it, she could use some help. She gets it from an unexpected source: her dapper and exceedingly polite new 70-year-old senior intern, Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro).

At first, Jules is reluctant to get close to the suit-wearing widower (and recent retiree) as he astutely assesses her frazzled life. “Too observant,” she complains to her associate via email from the backseat of the company car. (Guess which gent is behind the wheel.) Plus, hello? It’s weird that the senior citizen is hanging around for free. But the more time she spends with him, the more she becomes comforted by his soothing, all-knowing presence. He’s a problem solver, and he wants to tend her needs. Soon, Ben is babysitting her daughter and escorting her on a cross-country business trip. It’s a credit to the Oscar-winning actors, who share an endearing father-daughter-like rapport, that their tender relationship is completely genuine.

It's all sweeter than a candy store, no? And in some ways, it’s perfectly okay to digest the empty calories. Maybe you didn’t notice, but there were a grand total of zero mainstream comedies this summer in which grown-ups behaved like grown-ups. Our savior might as well be writer-director Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, It’s Complicated), who has a knack for delivering fizzy big-screen vehicles. Indeed, the set decor in her movies — think Diane Keaton’s Hamptons house in Something’s Got to Give — is often more breathtaking than any CGI effect.

Anne Hathaway in The Intern
Warner Bros.

So perhaps you’ll be too distracted by About the Fit’s industrial-chic office space to notice that laughs are in short supply. Sure it’s nice that Meyers doesn’t saddle De Niro with the requisite old fogey jokes or health snafus. Yet she goes for the obvious sight gag (cough, an erection, cough) when he gets a deep-massage from the beautiful in-house masseuse (Rene Russo). A scene in which Ben leads an intern heist at Jules’ parents’ home, intended to spoof Ocean’s Eleven, is hopelessly out of sync.

And what are we going to do about the Millennials? Jules' cohorts interact with Ben as if they’ve never met a man over the age of 50. (ZOMG, he shaves on Sundays! He isn’t on Facebook!). They either treat him like an alien sent from the planet Baby Boomer or a fairy godfather who can wave a magic wand and solve their problems. He even happily lets one shlubby intern move into his house! Again, where are the laughs here? One remake of The Odd Couple already airs on CBS.

The Ben-to-the-rescue narrative comes at the expense of our alleged kick-ass heroine. He shines, she withers. Faced with the prospect of a CEO overseeing her business, she cries in the conference room. After a grueling day, she gets plastered in a bar with her underlings. (Guess which gent holds back her hair as she vomits in a dumpster.) And back at the home front, she makes decisions that are both misguided, and frankly, irresponsible. This too involves more weeping. It’s unclear what Meyers is truly trying to say about a woman who wants the career and the family — that it’s impossible to have it all unless unpaid and unconditional support is nearby? Or that sanity, deep soul-searching, and a garbage can full of used Kleenex are all cautionary side effects?

Maybe the answer is to forget her respectful intern. What this girl really needs is a power lunch with Miranda Priestly pronto!

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