The War with Grandpa - C
Rated PG, 94 minutes
The uneven, occasionally fun new comedy "The War with Grandpa" is essentially "Home Alone" except it's grandpa vs. grandson stuck in the house together. Starring Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro, he must have taken cues from his pal Joe Pesci, who was in the original "Home Alone," given all the hijinks that ensue here. Predictable and mildly mean-spirited, the film is based on a children's book of the same by Robert Kimmel Smith yet lacks John Hughes' fresh energy and a charming star like the young Macaulay Culkin.
Forced to give up his room to his grandpa (De Niro) when he moves in to the house of his parents ("Pulp Fiction's" Uma Thurman and Rob Riggle), Peter ("The Goldfinch's" Oakes Fegley) devises a series of outrageous pranks in an attempt to make him move out, but grandpa fights back with some pranks of his own and assistance from his friends (Cheech Marin, Jane Seymour and Oscar-winner Christopher Walken).
The most memorable sequence is mid-film with the old vs. young dodgeball game, with Walken and Marin stealing a few scenes and providing some out-loud laughs. The silliness tends to be the focus of the film, which wouldn't be a bad thing except Astle and Ember's script tends to skim over a central element of the film, which is the bullying that Peter undergoes at school, a subplot that tries to resolve itself with even more bullying.
"The War with Grandpa" is directed by "Hop's" Tim Hill with a screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember, the film is essentially a series of silly gags and bits to see who can outdo the other. Likable but not terrible, there still isn't much to it, sprinkled with few good messages of family and friendship, and should keep the young ones entertained for a bit. Much like "Home Alone," the third act turns way too sentimental after all the pranks they play on each other and seems to come to an abrupt end after all the fun.
From "The Godfather" to "Goodfellas" and "The Irishman," going from Scorsese to children's film seems an odd choice for De Niro, who plays the grandpa role much like he would everything else, with a gentle smirk and crooked smile. "The War with Grandpa" is likable, mildly entertaining yet forgettable fluff that may do well for those seeking a respite from the four walls of the pandemic.