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October 2021

The War With Grandpa

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: Oct. 9, 2020


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Movie Review - 'The War with Grandpa'

by Adam Pavlacka on Oct. 9, 2020 @ 1:15 a.m. PDT

Upset that he has to share the room he loves with his grandfather, Peter decides to declare war in an attempt to get it back.

An adaptation of the 1984 children's novel, "The War with Grandpa" is the story of 11-year-old Peter (Oakes Fegley) and his widowed Grandpa Ed (Robert De Niro). Ed hasn't dealt well with life after his wife's passing, so his daughter Sally (Uma Thurman) invites Ed to live with her family. Unfortunately for Peter, this means giving up his beloved bedroom and moving to the attic. The only way to get back what's rightfully his is via war.

Despite the frenetic pace of the trailer, "The War with Grandpa" isn't quite at the level of "Meet the Fockers" or "Home Alone." Sure, there is some lighthearted "combat" between the two, but at its core, the story is about a loss of agency, both for young Peter and the older Ed. Neither one really wants to be in the situation they've found themselves in, and neither knows how to get out of it.

Thankfully, both Peter and Ed have friends at their side, which provides plenty of opportunities for Christopher Walken to chew the scenery as Jerry, one of Ed's successful friends, who also never quite grew up. Jerry cares for Ed, and he's willing to go over-the-top to help him out. This also includes helping Peter when he's bullied at school. In one sequence, the adult troublemakers show up after school and "take care" of the bully. It's part of an underlying theme that family always comes first.

The highlight of the movie is a trampoline-style dodgeball fight where Peter and his friends face off against Ed's aging crew in an ultimate battle for control of Peter's bedroom. It's the only sequence in the movie where all eight actors share the scene together, and as a result, it has some of the best writing and cross-generational comedy in the entire film.

While it was understandable that neither Peter nor Ed would do anything completely horrible to one another, the pacing of the film felt a bit off with a seeming reconciliation in the middle that was then disregarded for the final act. If anything, it felt like the two of them were going to pair up and get into trouble together, but they ended up just falling back into competing with each other.

A second subplot featuring Ed's disregard for Sally's husband seemed to be making progress, but it was simply dropped without resolution in the third act. That was disappointing because it provided an easy opportunity to interject more humor and to have Ed come to terms with the fact that he had misjudged his son-in-law.

Ultimately, it's the lack of depth that keeps "The War with Grandpa" firmly planted in "kids movie" territory and keeps it from becoming a classic. There's plenty here to entertain the young ones, and all of the slapstick humor is De Niro at his best, but the connective tissue between the comedy scenes isn't solid enough to carry the movie for adults. The movie has plenty of opportunity to provide commentary on growing old and passing things on to the next generation, but instead of sticking its neck out, the film plays it safe.

As a completely unoffensive family film, The War with Grandpa provides an enjoyable break from the insanity of 2020. If your local theaters have reopened, heading out for a night may even provide a sense of normalcy. Still, just like the candy at the concession stand, what's here is empty calories. Enjoy the ride while you watch it, but don't expect a masterpiece.

Score: 6.5/10

"The War with Grandpa" is rated PG and has a running time of 1 hours and 34 minutes. It is showing in local theaters.

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