By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Based on the children’s novel of the same name, The War With Grandpa is a fun and amiable movie for the whole family to enjoy. The film focusses on two vastly different generations, each with their own problems, but with one thing in common. Both parties are very unhappy with their current living situation. The film does succeed in teaching some valuable life lessons to both children and adults, and manages to entertain through some silly and outrageous gags and pratfalls. The themes never get too heavy and somber, but maintain a light, mostly breezy tone intended for easy consumption.
Robert DeNiro stars as grandfather, widower, and senior retiree Ed. After a series of disconcerting mishaps, Ed gets forced by his loving daughter Sally Decker (Uma Thurman) to move in with her family for his own safety. The problem is that in moving in, his grandson Peter (Oakes Fegley) gets relocated from his nice, comfortable bedroom to a not-as-nice and uncomfortable makeshift bedroom in the attic. Frustrated and irritated by this situation, Peter selfishly challenges his grandfather to a “war.” This involves a series of annoying, but creative pranks aimed to make his grandfather less comfortable. Though hesistant at first, Grandpa Ed eventually decides to humor his grandson, and give him some doses of his own medicine.
Writers Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember, and director Tim Hill adapt Robert Kimmel Smith’s novel for movie audiences. At first, I found myself irritated and annoyed with the premise and how selfish the Peter character is. However, I realized and remembered that children are still in the process of learning things, and that they can be rather selfish while maturing. As I got over these initial feelings, I found myself moderately enjoying the silly antics and begain to get in the spirit of things.
As one can already tell by my rating, the film never truly excels or transcends its aims. It merely serves a teaching tool for children, while also reminding senior citizens that just because their lives are changing, it doesn’t mean their lives are completely over.The comedy and gags in the movie are fine. There is a redundant nature to the antics which, at one point, start to wear a little thin, but they never get to the point of completely wearing out their welcome.
The cast all work well together, but with the exception of DeNiro and his onscreen antagoinist, no one really shines as bright as their potential. Uma Thurman and Rob Riggle star as Peter’s parents and Ed’s daughter and son-in-law. Though it is great to see both of these lovable actor in a movie again, I feel that their talents are absolutely wasted here. The film also features enjoyable appearances by Christopher Walken, Cheech Marin, and Jane Seymour. But it is DeNiro and his co-star Oakes Fegley who shine the brightest.
There isn’t much more I can say about this movie that I already have. It is a fun and goofy family film, but one that absolutely needs to be seen theatrically. Nevertheless, the distributing studio has decided to release it in theaters starting this weekend. As likable as this movie is, I wouldn’t recommend taking any major health risks to go see it. It will do just fine for a family movie night in one’s living room.