Mixed comedic results in De Niro’s family War
The War With Grandpa (PG, 94 mins) Directed by Tim Hill Reviewed by Graeme Tuckett ★★★
Years ago, when I was still young and dumb and seething with selfrighteousness, it would regularly ruin my entire week should I see Robert De Niro on screen in a film that did not seem to me to be worthy of his talents.
Now, looking back at De Niro’s pretty excellent cameo as Ben Stiller’s ferocious father-in-law-tobe in Meet The Parents, I can laugh along with the rest of the Western World.
But back then, the idea that the De Niro of The Godfather, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and Taxi Driver
would lower himself to – gasp – a family comedy was like hearing that Leonard Cohen had joined The Wiggles. And I rebelled against it in my soul.
These days, I’m just happy if De Niro escapes with a shred of dignity intact and hope that he’s donating his fees to a worthy charity.
I figure, at his age, he can do what he wants and it’s no business of mine if he turns up in something called The War With Grandpa,
playing a senior citizen engaged in a feud with his grandson over who gets the bedroom and who has to sleep in the attic when grandpa moves in with his daughter, her husband and their children.
The War With Grandpa is one of those films you really don’t need to know much about, beyond what you can see on the poster.
Yes, it’s going to be a series of staged set pieces, played out by utterly stereotypical characters, to a soundtrack of whatever is in the pop charts this month, leading to a hugs-and-lessons conclusion.
And none of that is a bad thing. The world needs safe, saccharine, predictable and disposable cinema just as much as it needs the good stuff.
And, of its type, The War With Grandpa ain’t terrible.
With Uma Thurman taking on the thankless role of De Niro’s daughter/mother to the 12-year-old, and a back-up crew for Bob that includes Cheech Marin and Jane Seymour, plus someone I thought was a terrible Christopher Walken impersonator, but who turned out to actually be Christopher Walken, at least director Tim Hill (Hop) has a deep bench of stupendously overqualified talent to draw on whenever the thin script is running out of steam.
And Oakes Egley (Pete’s Dragon) is absolutely fine, finding some nice moments of light and shade as the grandson who just wants his room back.
On the other hand, this is still a movie that thinks it’s hilarious to crack jokes about old men leering at young women in workout gear, and which plays the sight of a 70-year-old man falling off a roof for laughs.
So, y’know, it’s not exactly highbrow we’re talking here.
Also, the final scene is a blatant setup for a sequel, which seems to me to be optimistic to the point of delusional.
So, there you have it. The War With Grandpa. If you like what you see on the poster, or if you were a fan of the book, then you’ll probably like what you see on the screen.
The world needs safe, saccharine, predictable and disposable cinema just as much as it needs the good stuff. Enter The War With Grandpa.