by Kyle Arango
Listen, we all have done things for money before that we aren’t proud of. Some are more extreme than others, but they come in all facets and industries. In movies we see it all the time where great actors somehow all agreed to be in a film that is completely hot garbage from just the title itself. Our latest example is the uniquely titled The War with Grandpa, where we see Robert De Niro got to war with his grandson, and its just as bad as advertised. There was no hope going in and there is even less after seeing it.
The War with Grandpa follow Robert De Niro who has had too many public instances since being on his own. After one too many, his daughter played by Uma Thurman insists he moves in with her and her family. Problem is that there is not enough rooms in the house to go around and De Niro ends up taking the room of his grandson which forces the grandson to the attic. He gets mad, declares war, and the two engage in 90 minutes of pranks until a winner is declared. It is just as awful as you think it is. It had that slight glimmer of potential to be so wild its good, but never makes that step. It is simultaneously dumb enough to be bad but not ridiculous enough to be good. That puts this film squarely in the middle at just plain awful. There are maybe one or two decent moments but that’s about it. It just blows my mind how somebody can write this script and think that they made solid entertainment, then to turn that over to a studio and them deciding to give it the green light. I’ve got terrible ideas all the time that can be much better than this.
Nothing is more frustrating then having to watch a film that is clearly there to get a couple bucks. A film that has no heart, no morals, and no effort and just aims to dumb us down. That is what we have with The War with Grandpa. For those unaware, a paycheck film is one where the cast and crew just take it on so that they can make some easy money and could care less about the material. They are on a nice easy set with short hours and minimal commitment. You mostly see it with these family films where they have a decently known property and hope that the name alone can drive business. Take Bill Murray with Garfield for example. It makes you question your favorite actors and if they actually care about what material they put out into the world. What if it’s their last performance and that is what they are remembered for? De Niro goes from The Irishman to The War with Grandpa and its just absurd that he thought this would be a good idea. I wonder is Martin Scorsese considers this to be real cinema?
While Robert De Niro is the main subject of this abomination, he is not alone. Somehow they convinced Uma Thurman, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Walken all to join in on the madness. If you took this cast and made 100 different movies with them as your core actors, this would be the worst possible outcome. Uma just doesn’t care in her scenes which you would think would have emotional connection with De Niro as her father. That doesn’t happen at all. Jane Seymour looks as if she doesn’t have a clue where she is half the time and just thinks Robert De Niro wants to do pranks with her, so she’s excited about it. Christopher Walken and Cheech Marin are the only redeeming qualities of this film. They know exactly what movie they are in and ham it up to the perfect degree. Walken delivering lines such as “this act of aggression will not stand” while riding a hover board actually gets a chuckle from me. If anything can be a reason to watch this, its a scene where we get to see all the old people play trampoline dodge ball with kids who are doing flips off the walls. Seeing Walken and De Niro on trampolines is something I never thought I would see and am happy we now have it in our lives.
If you had to give someone a movie that perfectly encapsulates our intelligence as a country in 2020, it is The War with Grandpa. In many ways, this is actually the movie we all deserve at this point and the studio thinks so also because it’s the only film actually going to theaters this year. Robert De Niro, I salute your storied career as one of the greatest actors ever, but if this is what you are going to choose as your projects going forward, just hang it up. In war there are no winners, and in this case the audience is the biggest loser.