Starring Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman, Christopher Walken, Oakes Fegley, Rob Riggle, Cheech Marin, Jane Seymour
Austin Family Critical Rating: 3½ of 5
Austin Family Family-Friendly Rating: 4 of 5
Robert De Niro has been my favorite actor for as long as I can remember, and I make a point of seeing every movie he’s in. Last year he appeared in two Best Picture nominees, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman (featuring one of his all-time finest performances) and Todd Phillips’ Joker. This year, we get a completely different kind of De Niro in the family-friendly The War With Grandpa. In reading early reviews for this film, I was told to expect a juvenile movie full of cheap jokes and pratfalls. But I found it to be an amiable family comedy with a ton of laughs for children, and another committed, totally believable performance from De Niro as Ed, the titular Grandpa.
While The War With Grandpa is light entertainment and rather breezy, I found it entertaining for the fun dynamics between actors: the tenuous relationship between Ed and his son-in-law, Arthur (Rob Riggle); a reunion between The Deer Hunter stars De Niro and Christopher Walken (bonus points for the sight of Walken as Santa Claus); and the delightful return of Uma Thurman to the big screen as Ed’s daughter, Sally.
The film kicks off when Sally insists that Grandpa Ed stay with her family after the recent death of Ed’s wife (and Sally’s mother). But complications ensue when Ed moves into the bedroom of his grandson, Peter (Oakes Fegley), who is then relegated to living in the attic. Peter makes a declaration of war against his grandfather, and the majority of the film concerns their pranks and revenge tactics against one another. It’s not a terribly complex narrative, but it allows characters the space to expand their dimensions.
The War With Grandpa is also the film that broke the five-week box office reign of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet this past weekend. With Regal Cinemas having temporarily closed down almost all of their U.S. theaters due to the lack of new studio films (everything from No Time to Die to Wonder Woman 1984 have been pushed back by months), I am a fan of any film that encourages folks to go out to the movies. Clearly, The War With Grandpa appeals to families, and it may very well have long legs at the box office under the lowered audience expectations during COVID-19.
This film is rated PG for very mild roughness between Grandpa Ed and Peter in their increasingly elaborate pranks. It’s the kind of knockabout humor you’d expect from The Three Stooges. I’d recommend the film for ages eight and above.
Reviewed by Jack Kyser, a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.