Gretchen Lee—Staff Writer
Feel- good, family comedies tend to be pretty hit-or-miss. Some movies, like Mrs. Doubtfire, manage to balance comedy and message while others, like The Bee Movie, come across as incredibly campy. The War with Grandpa, blessedly, fell more in line with Mrs. Doubtfire, managing to tell a poignant story with excellent bits of humor and decent character development.
When Ed gets arrested yet again for accidentally robbing the grocery store, his daughter asks him to move in with her family. He reluctantly agrees, taking over his grandson, Peter’s, bedroom, who is less than happy with the arrangement, as he now must sleep in the not-so-inviting attic. In an attempt to reclaim his bedroom, Peter declares a prank war on his grandfather that quickly escalates to new heights and begins to impact the whole family.
I liked many things about this movie. The pranks between the two sides of the conflict were clever and entertaining, Robert DeNiro was endearing as a loving grandfather, and the verbal and physical humor were almost always spot-on.
Every role was perfectly and weirdly cast; many of the actors in this film played characters that are outside of their usual repertoire and, yet, they still managed to nail their respective roles in a way that made the movie even more intriguing. For example, Uma Thurman as an exhausted working mom and Jane Seymour as a dodgeball-chucking retail worker were so completely unexpected and delightfully unusual casting choices that the movie felt fresh and interesting.
The serious sides of this story, like the developing relationship between the mother and Peter’s eldest sister, Mia, were also well-executed. This film is multi-faceted, and the payoff on the side plots left the audience feeling satisfied.
Another little thing that I enjoyed about this film came from the fact that Peter’s younger sister, Jen, was absolutely obsessed with Christmas, to the point that her room was decorated with Christmas decorations year-round. I’m not sure why, but this little detail was endearing, and it made me realize the amount of thought that was put into this movie. Speaking as someone who was once a little girl, I can confirm that they are delightfully weird little creatures and the fact that this movie managed to accurately capture that fact was one of my favorite parts.
That being said, this movie did carry several incredibly campy scenes. The dodgeball showdown, for one, was one of the most awkwardly framed and scripted scenes I have seen in cinema. With choppy action and cheesy lines, the only reason I didn’t close my eyes and pretend the scene didn’t exist was because I was too entertained by the concept of Christopher Walken, Jane Seymour, Robert DeNiro, and Cheech Marin playing dodgeball against a bunch of twelve-year-olds at a trampoline park. It was so disappointing to see a scene that had the potential to be the funniest part of the whole movie fail so drastically.
I also found it incredibly difficult to root for the grandson in any way. While all his pranks were incredibly clever, the consequences were sometimes incredibly damaging in a way that made Peter come across as a smart-aleck-y little punk. Maybe I’m just getting older and less tolerant of pre-teens, but I was completely incapable of feeling any sympathy towards Peter. I definitely wanted Ed to win the war.
In the age of COVID-19, election drama, and wildfires, however, I cannot fault this movie as much as it perhaps deserves. This is a feel-good comedy and a wonderful distraction. It left me with warm and fuzzy feelings, and I was thoroughly entertained.