Tag Archives: robert de niro

Flawed ‘Intern’ Gets by on Charm

The_Intern_PosterAh, September. You wonderful buffer between summer blockbusters and Oscar season…

“The Intern” stars Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway and is written and directed by Nancy Meyers. When retirement proves to be too boring for 70-year-old Ben Whittaker (De Niro), he enrolls in a senior internship program at an internet fashion company led by Jules Ostin (Hathaway). Rene Russo, Adam DeVine, and Anders Holm co-star.

September usually contains two types of movies: trash that couldn’t fit into January and August (“The Transporter Refueled”) and decent films that still aren’t quite good enough to be worthy of Oscar season (“Black Mass,” even if Depp will get his nod). “The Intern” falls into the latter category, as it is a flawed but charming little film that never tries to be more than it is not.

Anne Hathaway makes everything she’s in better, that’s long established (if you don’t believe me try watching “Brides Wars” or “Les Misérables” and skip over her scenes and tell me with a straight face those movies are enjoyable). Meanwhile it’s been a while since Robert De Niro actually tried to do some serious acting (one could argue he has given two dedicated performances the past 10 years). So they may seem like an odd pairing, but their abstract chemistry is what makes “The Intern” work.

There are a few routes this film could have taken, and had it chosen those paths it would have been a conventional feel-good story, likely featuring a hardened boss who has to continuously teach her technology challenged senior citizen intern about the modern world. But writer/director Meyers instead choses to go an alternative route, still making De Niro’s character a fish-out-of-water, but never panders us or tries to force “ha! He’s old, get it?!” jokes down our throats. And instead of starting out like Sandra Bullock’s unlikable boss in “The Proposal,” Hathaway is just a busybody who we like from the get-go, which makes her easier for the audience to root for and relate to.

The film has its share of chuckle moments, and two laugh-out-loud gags including a fantastic sequence where De Niro and a group of other interns break into a house and steal a computer, but mostly the film skates by on its charm. Like I said, Hathaway is likable no matter what, but De Niro has this sense of optimism about him that is just infectious, and it puts you in a happy mood right out the gate.

Now I have to list the film’s flaws, both because that’s part of the job of movie reviewing and because I am a cynical person by nature. The film tries to force conflict into random segments just for the sake of having conflict, and all it does is add unnecessary time to the film’s length, which brings me to my biggest problem with the film.

Although I was never bored, the film isn’t paced well. After that brilliant robbery scene I figured the film had covered all the bases it needed to and would begin to wrap up; except that was only around the halfway point of the film (the running time is two hours). There are numerous points, in fact, that I thought the film would begin to end, only to have it introduce new plotlines. It isn’t overindulgence for ego sake like a Peter Jackson film, but it does stop the film from being breezy.

“The Intern” is pretty much exactly what you would expect to get based on the trailer, director, cast and/or plot, and that’s ok. It is flawed, sure, but those flaws are for the most part outweighed by dedicated work from Hathaway, De Niro and company. It’s a good date movie for all ages, and a nice buffer film as we enter the Fall Movie Season.

Critics Rating: 6/10



‘Grudge Match’ Uninspired and Unfunny


            It’s Jake La Motta versus Balboa. Raging Bull versus Rocky. De Niro versus Stallone. What could go wrong? Well if you guessed “most everything because those two men are now 70 years old” then congratulations, you got it! “Grudge Match” stars De Niro and Stallone as two former boxers who are brought out of retirement to have one final tie-breaking fight. Kevin Hart and Kim Basinger also star and Peter Segal directs.

This is not the first time Hollywood has paired old actors together; it’s been done this year, in fact, with “Last Vegas”, and that too starred De Niro. Only difference is that film was funny, and De Niro actually looked like he wanted to be there.

I found it really hard to find any joy in “Grudge Match”. De Niro and Stallone both clearly don’t care about the movie and slump through their roles with very little enthusiasm. Not that the script would have done them any favors if that had chosen to care.

Of the two guys who wrote the movie, Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman, only Kelleher has any experience writing a feature film; and that experience comes in the form of the 1996 kid’s film “First Kid”. The script is just riddled with clichés and a lot of unfunny lines that are just handed to the audience with no effort at all. Even the hilarious Kevin Hart can’t make much of his dialogue pop, as much as he may have tried.

The saving grace for the film is the end fight. Director Segal has proven he is capable of shooting sports and action scenes with “Get Smart” and “The Longest Yard”. The climax is everything you would expect from a feel-good holiday movie, but it was one of the few effective aspects of the movie.

I really wanted to like this movie. I went in expecting “Last Vegas” but with boxing gloves instead of poker chips, and walked out feeling empty inside. When I could understand what Stallone was actually saying I didn’t care, and when De Niro gave yet another mailed in performance you’re more insulted than anything. The film was slated to be released in January, a month notorious for Hollywood’s dumping ground of bad movies, but was pushed up to a Christmas release.

Middle aged people may get some sort of nostalgic rush from “Grudge Match” but aside from a few chuckles and the end fight, which ends very abruptly, the film has nothing to offer. It is kind of like when a fight is really hyped up and publicized, and then ends in a one round KO. Only instead of ending quickly, “Grudge Match” just draws on and on and on…

Critics Rating: 4/10

Take the Gamble with ‘Last Vegas’


            All too often when a movie has more than two big names, especially comedies, those big names phone in their performances and the result is a lackluster film. However sometimes, just as in Las Vegas, we can get a surprise. And that surprise comes in “Last Vegas”, a comedy starring Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Robert De Niro as four lifelong friends who get together in Las Vegas for Douglas’ bachelor party. Jon Turteltaub directs.  

Ever since “The Hangover” has massive success in 2009, numerous films have tried to copy its “wolf pack in Vegas” formula and it almost always end up being a poor film (including the third Hangover film itself). But “Last Vegas”, despite all of its clichés and familiar plot, is likable and fresh, and that is due in large part to the chemistry between the four leads.

It would have been very understandable if the actors all licked a stamp and mailed in their performances (heck, De Niro has been doing it for near ten years now). We’ve seen movies with many big comedy stars get together and make an unfunny product (here’s looking at you, “Couple’s Retreat”). But never once in “Last Vegas” did I get the feeling the Oscar-winning actors didn’t care about being there, and that really added to the amount of fun I had with the movie.

The one who stands out the most is Kevin Kline. He has the largest character arch playing a man whose wife is allowing him to cheat on her while in Vegas in an attempt to save their marriage (they explain it better in the movie, I swear) and he then faces moral decisions the rest of the film. And some of those decisions lead to very funny moments, including one quick one-liner that left the audience roaring.

Yes, there is one (or five) too many Viagra jokes, and you can only poke fun at Florida for being the place elderly people go to die so many times, but for the most part these jokes never get annoying, it’s just sometimes awkward when no one laughs. And of course it is clichéd and predictable and the ending is all lovey-dovey and you get force fed life lessons about love and trust and never forgetting who your friends are. Because what would a movie be without life lessons? Look at “This Is the End”: it taught us to never hang out with Michael Cera because we won’t get raptured.

I don’t know why I liked “Last Vegas” as much as I did, but I just found it likable and charming. The actors are clearly having a blast, and Vegas is always makes for a fun backdrop (you know, unless you’re watching “Hangover 3”). If you like the actors, enjoy laughing, or Viagra puns are your thing (hey, no judging), then “Last Vegas” fits the bill. Because you know the saying: what happens in Vegas…can end up being a pretty fun time at the movies, assuming it’s not Hangover 3.

Critics Rating: 7/10