‘The Intern’ fails to offer any surprises

By Bob Bloom

“The Intern” is a gentle, inoffensive comedy that follows a predictable path with expected twists and turns as well as a couple of unnecessary detours.

Jules Olstin (Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway) is the harried owner of a booming start-up women’s online clothing store. You know from the outset that she is distracted and overwhelmed.

How? Because it is explained by her employees in the first of many unnecessary expository scenes.

One of her top aides has instituted an intern program for seniors — no, not high school or college, but as in senior citizens.

Ben Whittaker (Oscar-winner Robert De Niro) is a 70-year-old widower, a bored retiree and a one-time business executive, who feels there’s a vacuum in his life. He has traveled the globe, visited his family, does tai chi and works hard at trying to keep active.

When he sees a notice for Jules’ internship program, he sends in an introductory video and is hired.

At first, Jules is reluctant to accept him as her intern, but her aides explain that she must set an example for the rest of her company, so she grudgingly endures Ben.

Of course, as time passes, she comes to see Ben as not only a calming influence, but also a font of wisdom and reassurance.

You can clearly see where “The Intern,” written and directed by Nancy Meyers, is headed.

Jules, who is married and has a little daughter, is under pressure in her professional (and personal) life to hire a CEO to help alleviate her load.

She is reluctant to do so, fearing that whomever she employs will not run the company in the manner she has created.

Ah, you are thinking: Ben is a former executive, the two are growing close. Could it be?

I will not divulge any spoilers. Let’s simply say that things work out as they only can in a mainstream Hollywood studio movie with as much credibility to the real business world as I have to being a starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.

Hathaway and De Niro are pros; they inject vitality and personality into their characters. It’s Meyers’ writing that sabotages their efforts.

Jules and Ben are mostly one-dimensional; they do not vary much from their trajectories. Jules, despite making a friendly and comfortable work environment for her employees, is not a real people person. She has difficulty remembering their names or complimenting them for their efforts and takes no interest in their lives.

Ben, on the other hand, is nearly saintly. He quickly becomes everyone’s favorite uncle, always ready with a word of advice, a relationship tip and a helping hand to a young coworker needing a place to crash.

He takes a rather paternalistic attitude toward Jules, despite her initial reluctance to accept him.

It seems as if Meyers is using “The Intern” to make some sort of feminist statement about women in the business world, yet her message feels forced and insincere as Jules begins to accept Ben’s counseling.

“The Intern” is not a bad movie, though I may have made it sound so. Rather, it’s an innocuous, feel-good date film with solid performances and engaging characters.

As long as you accept it for what it is, you won’t have many problems with it.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.


2 stars out of 4
(PG-13), language, suggestive language