Review by Sean Boelman
Tim Hill’s The War with Grandpa sat on the shelf for quite a long time because of the unfortunate circumstances in which the production found itself, but maybe it would have been better off buried. Bafflingly unfunny with jokes that feel five years out-of-date (even though this was made only three years ago), this is probably one of the biggest wastes of talent this side of Green Lantern.
The film follows a young boy who declares war on his grandfather after he moves in and takes over his bedroom. It’s the type of silly and harmless premise that has the potential to offer some fun prank-based family entertainment, but the physical comedy in the movie falls into one of two extremes: painfully generic or straight-up weird.
It seems that a lot of the humor of the film leans on the idea of these respected actors (Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Uma Thurman, and more) going for low-hanging fruit. And while there are a few decent references, especially to De Niro’s previous filmography, the problem is that the target audience is children who are too young to care about who these people are, so the funniest jokes will go right over their head.
At least it does seem like the cast is having fun here. Too often when an A-list star goes for a broad comedy like this, it feels like they are just doing it to cash in a paycheck, but this cast does give it their all. And poor Oakes Fegley, who is very talented, should have gotten an acting masterclass from these legends and instead got a lesson on how to misallocate the budget.
The ultimate message of the movie is one that is quite sweet — family love triumphs over all — but this is buried beneath layers and layers of cruelness. The amount of times that De Niro’s character tells his grandson about what “real war” feels like is pretty ridiculous and really doesn’t go beyond the surface level.
Perhaps the biggest problem that the film faces, though, is that the protagonist simply isn’t a likable character. In fact, he’s a complete and total brat. Had the movie given the protagonist even the slightest of legitimate reasons to fight back against his grandfather, it may have worked, but the attic bedroom to which he was supposedly relegated actually looks awesome for a kid.
The film’s execution is often lackluster as well. Obviously, these older actors can’t and/or won’t do some of these ridiculous stunts, so body doubles and editing techniques are employed to make it look as if they are performing these feats, and it looks even more fake than one would expect. The least they could have done would be to feature some slightly better editing.
The War with Grandpa exists, and that’s more than some ever expected to be able to confirm. Thankfully, it’s not high-profile enough to be a stain on any of the talented stars’ resume, but it will hopefully soon be forgotten.
The War with Grandpa is now playing in theaters.