THE WAR WITH GRANDPA is a very insulting experience; insulting to those who watch it but even more insulting to the people who acted and made it. It feels like every moment of watching this movie my IQ dropping and my intelligence obliterated, right to the point of the
Even from the very first scene, where DeNiro attempts and fails to do “Self-Checkout” at a supermarket (this reminded me of a bizarre scene in the movie WILD HOGS involving William H. Macy and a laptop involving “Alternative Specs”), I knew something was wrong. Not a single moment in this sequence, from the overweight security guard, the scanning machine talking back to DeNiro, even the store alarm gates beep rings anywhere in reality, not even in comedy. (Not even the gates beeping makes sense as none of DeNiro’s items even had a security tag on them) Comedy has to be grounded SOMEWHERE and it’s a tricky balance, even for studio comedies, to do this.
It gets worse from there. Poor DeNiro’s character, Ed, is old and can’t do things like use Self Checkout, so he moves back in with his family and into a room on the main floor. This enrages the son Pete (Oakes Fegley) who gets relegated to the attic. Pete is not too happy about it and likes to complain to everyone around him. Everyone likes kids who complain!
But wait a second! The kid gets the attic, and as this is a Stupid People movie, so of course said attic is spacious, roomy and has lots of production design. Anyone see that episode of THE BRADY BUNCH when Greg got the attic? Or even the recent PADDINGTON movies where our lead hero gets a terrific view of London from his top-story digs? This attic is AWESOME! It has space, windows and looks like it could even get some renovations to make it awesome. What is this kid on about?
But no, he’s mad about it and wants to start a “War” with Ed…for some reason. The violent wackiness ensues and there is also a Gentlemen’s Code to all of this; both parties also still smile and respect each other amidst harassing and setting up traps for the others, but to me the damage has been done. When I see a child’s bed crash onto the floor or the kid assaulting an older man by way of using sealant instead of shaving cream on his face…I cringe. Sorry, but none of this is funny to me, even if it’s all in the family.
I know it’s the movies and they are an escape, but…none of what happens in THE WAR WITH GRANDPA makes sense nor is it interesting. No one talks like this. No one acts like this. It’s a combination of lousy dialogue that is delivered stiff and feels “written” and even worse performances from some pretty talented actors that make this a chore to sit through. You simply disconnect from everything the movie is doing as you feel nothing for anything that is happening on screen, even on a comedic escapist level.
And even though this is based off of a popular book by Robert Kimmel Smith, I’m still not convinced any of the writers or filmmakers were actually passionate about this project as scene by scene goes on with an overlit sitcom look and endless scenes that drag on; one in particular featuring a bouncy-gym dodgeball game featuring kids vs. seniors went on for so long I went for a bathroom break, came back and IT WAS STILL GOING ON.
Much has been said of the career decline of Robert DeNiro and I have written several reviews over the last decade talking about his film choices. I first noticed it in MEET THE PARENTS where he just seemed to simply show up and recite lines. He is still wonderful in movies like the recent THE IRISHMAN and a gifted director as well (THE GOOD SHEPARD I still recommend film fans to check out) but with strange acting choices and being outspoken on political issues, he is truly cringeworthy to watch on screen these days.
Obviously I am not the audience for THE WAR WITH GRANDPA; there’s a level of lowest-common-deominator moviegoers that will likely come and giggle at all of the predetermined jokes, pratfalls and probably enjoy that painful dodgeball sequence more than I did. The movie not only has all of the thinking done for them, but it even stoops to the comedy dead-zone low of having outtakes play as the credits play to a music video promotion for Laura Marano’s new single, now available on streaming everywhere.
Rating: * out of ****
THE WAR WITH GRANDPA is currently playing exclusively in movie theaters.