The War With Grandpa

Review by Rich Cline | 2/5

The War With Grandpa
dir Tim Hill
scr Tom J Astle, Matt Ember
prd Marvin Peart, Phillip Glasser, Rosa Morris Peart
with Robert De Niro, Oakes Fegley, Uma Thurman, Rob Riggle, Laura Marano, Poppy Gagnon, Christopher Walken, Cheech Marin, Jane Seymour, Juliocesar Chavez, Isaac Kragten, TJ McGibbon
release US 9.Oct.20,
UK 16.Oct.20
20/US 1h38

thurman riggle walken

Is it streaming?

fegley gagnon and de niro
This high-concept comedy is essentially a barrage of dopey jokes and inane slapstick. While there are a few intriguing textures to the story, it's simply too silly and cute for its own good, struggling to gather momentum or interest as an intergenerational battle erupts. It's the kind of lazy comedy that never even tries to root things in the characters or premise, merely piling one corny gag onto another.
After losing his driving licence and being charged with robbing a store, Ed (De Niro) is forced to move in with his daughter Sally (Thurman) and son-in-law Arthur (Riggle). But 12-year-old Peter (Fegley) isn't happy about giving up his bedroom and moving into the attic. So he declares war on Grandpa, igniting a series of pranks that they agree to keep secret from the family, even as they become collateral damage. Of course, both Ed and Peter are drastically underestimating each other. Meanwhile, Peter's sisters (teen Marano and little Gagnon) have their own dramas.
Ed is a cliched technophobe, clashing with iPads and self-checkout machines before somehow mastering a spy drone and hacking a computer. Peter's leaky attic room is infested with bats and rats, but only when needed for a joke. Many traps they set for each other are potentially lethal, which perhaps isn't a great message for the target audience of 10 year olds. And then there's the epic dodgeball match, squaring Ed's pensioners (Walken, Marin and Seymour) against Peter's preteens (Chavez, Kragten and McGibbon).

With effortless timing, De Niro adds spark to the role, barely breaking a sweat (stuntmen do the pratfalls) as the deadpan Ed. And Fegley keeps Peter grounded as a smart kid who just about stays a step ahead. Meanwhile, most antics end up colliding with Thurman (exaggerated goofiness) and Riggle (zany homophobia), both of whom ham things up adeptly. Everyone else kind of hovers around the edges waiting for a moment to join in the foolishness. Alas, no one steals the show.

Eventually the warring antics lead to a series of epic disasters at a randomly Christmas-themed birthday party. After the broadly idiotic mayhem, it's obvious that sentimentality is going to kick in, and sure enough Ed and Peter find common ground when they get into trouble together. But while there are some nice touches here and there, and a few deranged throwaway gags, the script simply isn't clever enough to survive the painful emotive speechifying at the end.

cert pg themes, language, violence 1.Oct.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall