I have to admit it is still hard for me to picture such a seasoned thespian as Robert De Niro doing comedies, much less family comedies. I know the Fockers franchise was a hit, but to me De Niro is anything but a “family comedy” guy.
Based on the book by Robert Kimmel Smith, written by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember while directed by Tim Hill (Spongebob Squarepants), the film can be described as a cross between Dennis the Menace and Home Alone. The first few minutes still had me scratching my head as to why De Niro accepted this role, but as the film progressed, it became more endearing.
The plot centers around Peter, portrayed convincingly by Oakes Fegley (2016’s Pete’s Dragon) having to relinquish his room to his grandpa, De Niro. This leads to a never-ending barrage of pranks that escalate to a somewhat predictable conclusion that impacts a highly-anticipated party for Peter’s sister. The previously mentioned relation to the Home Alone series is obvious, but the conclusion of the film pulls at your heart strings. I admit I am a sucker for a good family drama and family comedy, and I was pleasantly surprised by the film’s familiar yet endearing cinematography and story.
The film also features veterans Uma Thurman, Cheech Marin, Jane Seymour and Christopher Walken in supporting roles.
One of the most surprising breakouts of the film has to be that of Peter’s friend, Steve, played by Isaac Kragten. Kragten has some great one-liners and plays off nicely against Fegley’s oftentimes exasperated Peter.
The film was plagued with production issues, originally intending to be released in 2018 instead of 2020. Due to filming location changes and being sold off by the Weinstein Company before release, it was later acquired by 101 Studios.
While definitely not a cinematic masterpiece, The War With Grandpa is-what-it-is, a fun, lighthearted, prank-filled Home Alone / Dennis the Menace / Getting Even With Dad conglomeration that will keep younger viewers entertained, but may leave older kids and adults hoping the pranks featured in the film don’t find their way home.