Old people hate change and kids hate not getting their way, but sometimes we have to do things in life that we don’t want to in order to survive. These are hard truths, but ones that most people know. They are also points that The War with Grandpa hammers on again and again.
What we have here is a garden variety family comedy. Our protagonists, grandpa Ed (Robert De Niro) and grandson Peter (Oakes Fegley) are at war. Why? Because Ed is moving in with the family at the insistence of his daughter (Uma Thurman). She’s worried about him getting on in years and living alone, so a change is forced. This change also forces another one: Peter must give up his room and move into the attic. Mind you the attic actually appears to be more spacious and offers up more privacy, but Peter doesn’t seem to care about that. What a goof!
Ed is not happy because he isn’t allowed to live on his own anymore and Peter isn’t happy because his life has been inconvenienced. So they decide to take it out on one another and hilarity ensues as their prank war gets increasingly more elaborate. Cookies and coffee are sullied. Furniture is booby-trapped. Spying goes awry. Shenanigans galore.
If you’ve seen any prank-filled comedy in the last few decades, you know what you are getting yourself into here. There’s nothing terribly original about the aforementioned shenanigans, which means this film lives and dies on the strength of its cast. Luckily, The War with Grandpa has a good one. People bag on De Niro often for making movies like this, but to be honest, he seems like he’s having a lot of fun. Ditto for his age-appropriate pals played by Christopher Walken, Cheech Marin, and Jane Seymour. As cookie cutter and silly as this whole thing is, no one is phoning it in.
Oakes Fegley makes for a charming child lead, which smooths over a lot of the reheated plot elements on display. Uma Thurman and Rob Riggle are also a fun pair, playing the parents caught in the middle of all of this nonsense. Everyone is likeable, including the two daughters (Poppy Gagnon & Laura Marano) who sadly aren’t given much to do. This movie is fine. Not great. Not terrible. Just forgettable and fine.
If you sit down with The War with Grandpa expecting the comedy of the year, you will be sorely disappointed. On the flipside, it’s also not a dumpster fire. This is the perfect example of a “3 star” movie. It shows up and does exactly what is expected of it, then leaves. It won’t wow you or piss you off. It will simply pass the time. If that’s all you’re looking for out of it, then you’ll get what you paid for. Just don’t expect to remember it by the time tomorrow morning arrives.
The War with Grandpa is an adaptation of the children’s book of the same name by Robert Kimmel Smith. It was directed by Tim Hill, from a screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember. The film was produced by Marvin Peart, Rosa Morris Peart, and Phillip Glasser. It stars Robert De Niro, Oakes Fegley, Uma Thurman, Rob Riggle, Christopher Walken, Jane Seymour, Cheech Marin, Laura Marano, Poppy Gagnon, Juliocesar Chavez, T.J. McGibbon, Lydia Styslinger, Colin Ford, Drew Scheid, and Faizon Love.