The War With Grandpa (2021) Review

The War With Grandpa Review

I’m not one of those who have universally decried Robert De Niro’s recent movie role choices. I don’t begrudge him a little fun and few easy paycheques as he enters his later years. Some of them have been okay (DIRTY GRANDPA), some of them less so, and with THE WAR WITH GRANDPA, it’s easy to see how he could have signed up for the potential only to be cruelly disappointed by the execution.

After a series of ‘senior moments’, widower Ed (De Niro) is told by his daughter Sally (Uma Thurman) that he has to move in with her family and leave the home he shared with his late wife. To accommodate the move, Ed’s grandson Peter (Oakes Fegley) is forced to give up his bedroom and move into the attic, a slight which results in a declaration of war.

Of course, to provoke the necessary familial conflict, the move to the attic has to be an unpalatable one but the movie’s tenuous-at-best suspension of disbelief can’t accommodate the idea that any parent would legitimately move one of their children into an attic room without, at least, cleaning it and making it habitable. There’s a fun idea at the heart of this adaptation of Robert Kimmel Smith’s children’s novel and there are quite a few moments, like the state of the attic to which Peter is banished which, while they might work hilariously on the page, just end up seeming mean-spirited in a movie. It’s not helped by a script which seems to be content to have eeach member of the family treat each other quite callously and they’re often only a few degrees shy of being one of Roald Dahl’s typical ‘awful families’ from which our hero or heroine must find a way to escape.

The performances are pretty good, although Uma Thurman seems oddly determined to play her role as Lisa Kudrow and Rob Riggle seems uncomfortably constrained by the film’s twee PG sensibilities – sensibilities which nevertheless find time for not one but two wrinkly geriatric genital jokes. De Niro and his senior pals have fun with it – especially Christopher Walken and Jane Seymour and even the kids are a step above the usual family film level, especially Poppy Gagnon as the youngest daughter of the family. No film moppet has enunciated her lines so clearly and earnestly since the MIRACLE ON 34th STREET/ MATILDA heyday of Mara Wilson.

Muddled, underdeveloped and overstimulated, they say war is Hell and THE WAR WITH GRANDPA does little to contradict them.

score 2