Movie Review: Pick a fight with De Niro? “The War with Grandpa”

You’ve got a choice for kid-friendly film entertainment this weekend.

You can stream Adam Sandler’s most sentimental “family” movie ever — complete with poop and peepee jokes, and Sandler’s sad ensemble of faded comics — “Hubie Halloween.”

Or you can find a cineplex or drive-in that’s showing Oscar winners Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken, along with Uma Thurman, Jane Seymour and Cheech Marin, and a bunch of kids giving their all to “The War with Grandpa.”

“Grandpa” is even more sentimental, just as childishly slapshticky, has no edge at all, and no toilet jokes. But thanks to that cast, it’s marginally better. Any chance to catch this crew on the screen is worth treasuring, even in a middling comedy that’s been shelved several times since it was filmed three years ago.

De Niro’s a widowed, retired home builder whose inability to handle everything from driving to self-checkout at the supermarket has his daughter (Thurman) move him into her house.

Husband Arthur (Rob Riggle) and their teen and elementary school daughters have to adjust.

Sixth grader Peter (Oakes Fegley)? He has to give up his room and move into the leaky, bat and rat infested attic. And he’s irked. Egged on by his pals at school (where they’re bullied), Peter declares “war.” Even writes Grandpa a declaration announcing his intentions.

Grandpa is depressed and lonely, and his only grandson wants to start something.

“You really want a war? Because I’ve been in one. Even if you win, everybody gets hurt.”

Let the ever-escalating pranks and practical jokes begin — sabotaging Grandpa’s shaving cream, disrupting a funeral he attends, setting him up to take this or that pratfall.

Did you know medical alert devices are an open invitation to “SWAT” a senior you’ve got a beef with?

Peter needs to learn the phrase “Hey, he might break a HIP.”

Grandpa tries to maintain the peace, but he’s got a pal (Walken) egging him on, just like Peter.

“This aggression…will not…STAND. Semper fi!”

The pranks fly back the other way — humiliating homework rewrites, taking the screws out of every chair and bed in Peter’s room.

“Dude, I think your grandpa might be a ninja!”

They agreed to two rules — “No collateral damage” and “No telling.” But as Mom and Dad start bearing the brunt of stunts gone awry, they have to know something’s up.

The gags are limp, even the elaborate ones. But there’s a chuckle in the best of the dust-ups, a trampoline dodgeball battle that has Peter and pals facing off with Grandpa, and buddies played by Walken and Cheech Marin, and a roped-in cashier (Jane Seymour).

“Hope you brought your Polygrip, Old Man!”

De Niro never breaks character, never makes this another “Dirty Grandpa,” and twinkles every time he stops to lecture the kid on the evils of “war.” But he can be provoked.

“He’s old. His fingers don’t work!”

“I got ONE finger that works!”

And Walken? He’s reached the stage in his working life where every word out of his mouth is funny. The screenwriters must be fans, because he gets the best lines, even dressed up as Santa.

“What’s YOUR…name? Lemme guess, it…wasn’t a NAME twenty years ago.”

“The War with Grandpa” can feel old fashioned. It’s too mild-mannered for our Pg-13-and-up era. But little kids — VERY little kids — will chuckle at the pranks.

Just remember to have the “don’t try this at home” talk afterwards.

MPAA Rating: PG

Cast: Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman, Oakes Fegley, Christopher Walken, Cheech Marin, Rob Riggle and Jane Seymour

Credits: Directed by Tim Hill, script by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember, based on the novel by Robert Kimmel Smith. A 101 Studios release.

Running time: 1:34

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