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'The Intern' review: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway in pleasant fluff

Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro as Ben

Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro as Ben Whittaker in "The Intern." Credit: AP / Warner Bros. Pictures

"The Intern" stars Anne Hathaway as the young CEO of a successful online fashion business and Robert De Niro as a 70-year-old who becomes her unlikely intern. It's a premise that, in Hollywood, can result in only one of two movies.

In the first movie, tech-savvy bossypants Jules Ostin (Hathaway) will learn the value of the old ways from De Niro's gentlemanly Ben Whittaker. He in turn will learn to engage with a newfangled, fast-moving world.

In the other movie, the two fall in love.

Thank heavens "The Intern" isn't the second movie, though given the average age difference between male and female romantic leads, it wouldn't be a huge surprise. (See: any film by Woody Allen.) The thing is, "The Intern" isn't the first movie, either. A generation-gap comedy in which age turns out to be relatively unimportant -- and in which almost nothing important happens -- "The Intern" is a pleasant, fluffy mess of a movie that succeeds only thanks to the charm of its two leads and the enduring skills of writer-director Nancy Meyers.

Few filmmakers can do contemporary comedy -- whatever the era -- like Meyers, whose credits include "Baby Boom" and "Something's Gotta Give." Here she approaches modern-day Brooklyn, where the film was largely shot, and neatly captures its blend of fading oldsters, youthful hipsters and newly minted 1-percenters. Jules works in gritty Red Hook but lives in tony Park Slope with her daughter, Paige (JoJo Kushner), and stay-at-home husband, Matt (Anders Holm). Into her hectic life comes Ben, whose observational skills initially unnerve her (whatever he's thinking, she suspects he's right), but whose grandfatherly aura and 40-year business acumen become vital to her personal and professional well-being.

That's all fine -- and that's really all there is. Ben falls for the office masseuse (Rene Russo) and makes friends with some young dudes (Adam DeVine, Zack Pearlman, Jason Orley), while Jules finds some answers that didn't necessarily require an older man's wisdom. Still, Meyers' light touch and sparkling dialogue, plus the lovely chemistry between her two stars, make it all enjoyable. Look for Linda Lavin in a small part as Ben's lovestruck neighbor.



"The Intern" features the unlikely pairing of Robert De Niro, 72, with the much younger Anne Hathaway, 33. (Relax, they're not romantically involved.) May-December pairings are nothing unusual in the movies. Just look at these four screen teams.

SABRINA (1954) -- Audrey Hepburn often was teamed with much older male co-stars, though never more charmingly than in this frothy Billy Wilder comedy that had the 25-year-old gamin falling for a millionaire played by 55-year-old Humphrey Bogart.

VERTIGO (1958) -- James Stewart was 50 and Kim Novak was 25, but they generated so much electricity in this Hitchcock thriller that they were reteamed later that year for the bewitching "Bell, Book and Candle."

THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE (1961) -- It's not always the man who's older. Here, 48-year-old Vivien Leigh found herself falling for a man exactly half her age -- Warren Beatty as an Italian (!) Lothario.

AS GOOD AS IT GETS (1997) -- Helen Hunt, 34, and Jack Nicholson, 60, sparred as if they were an old married couple in James L. Brooks' comedy that earned both stars Oscars.

--Daniel Bubbeo

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