As retired widower Ben Whittaker, De Niro doesn't do anything here that we haven't seen him do before. More so than other top actors of his generation, De Niro has spread himself far too thin by doing four or five movies a year. He seems to turn up everywhere, be it in high profile releases like David O. Russell's Joy or direct-to-video stuff like the recent Heist. Here he's in ultra-low-key mode, bringing to mind his underrated work in 2009's Everybody's Fine. Ben is lonely and tired of doing nothing, so he responds to an ad for a senior citizen-only internship program with online clothing retailer About the Fit.
A couple years ago there was The Internship, a very different kind of comedy in which Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn starred as middle-aged Google interns. Meyers isn't looking to wallow in the obvious fish-out-of-water, "too old for this crap" easy laughs that were that film's stock in trade. The humor rises slyly out of more realistic scenarios. Ben takes his new role seriously, unafraid of tackling even the most menial tasks. About the Fit CEO Jules Ostin (Hathaway) can't be bothered with the senior intern program. In her view, it's just a way to fulfill an image-boosting community outreach effort. Slowly but surely, Ben wins her over with his quiet, dignified perseverance. If that sounds kind of corny, in some ways it is. But it's also a lot looser and more genial than it could've been had Meyers indulged in too maudlin a tone.
While Ben rediscovers a sense of purpose in his life, connecting with his decades-younger co-workers, Jules feels she's losing hers. Hathaway is every bit as excellent as De Niro, With Jules in a position to possibly lose her leadership of the company she founded, she's desperately trying to maintain order in her life. Hathaway effortlessly conveys the struggle this working woman is wrestling with, attempting to balance professional and personal needs. Her husband Matt (Anders Holm) stays at home with they're toddler, Paige (JoJo Kushner)—except for when he's stepping out with another woman. This is where Meyers loses her footing. The details of Jules' personal life are not clearly thought out. It's as if Meyers, after introducing some truly heartbreaking plot elements, decided to pull her punches in order to not spoil the generally feel-good mood.
It's hard to completely set those concerns aside, because they factor very prominently into the film's final act. But those problems aren't enough to cancel out the great performances by the two leads, not to mention the consistent stream of subtle laughs. The Intern was clearly meant to be light. Even though Meyers gets a bit lead-footed and uncertain with the emotions introduced late in the game, The Intern remains easily recommendable.
Speaking of "light," Warner Bros. Blu-ray is quite lacking in meaningful supplemental features. There are three featurettes, each running about five minutes, that don't shed much light on the filmmakers' creative process. That said, the audio/visual presentation is sterling. Two-time Oscar nominee Stephen Goldblatt's cinematography (he was recognized by the Academy for his work on The Prince of Tides and Batman Forever) is sharp. While not exactly a feast of audio fireworks, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix is fine too, showcasing primarily dialogue and Theodore Shapiro's score. The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes a standard DVD and Digital HD copy.