The War with Grandpa review — life lessons without the lessons

By Marc Miller
Published: October 9, 2020 (Last updated: February 10, 2024)


In The War with Grandpa, no one comes away unscathed, including the viewer.

Boy, family comedies have been in a sad state of affairs for what seems like decades now. You can’t watch one without weird gross-out humor or a “funny” accident that would actually seriously injure or kill a person. The War with Grandpa is no exception. Well, except for the fact that legendary Robert De Niro somehow ended up in this clunker, which must have been for the money. It’s a family film about lessons without the burden of having any.

De Niro plays Grandpa Jack, who moves into his daughter Sally (Uma Thurman) and son-in-law Arthur’s (Rob Riggle) home after a misunderstanding with a self-checkout at a Kroger’s. They have three kids — teenager Mia (The Perfect Date’s Laura Marano, underused here), the little one, Jennifer (the uber-adorable Poppy Gagnon), and the real pisser, Peter (Pete’s Dragon’s Oakes Fegley). Peter is forced to give up his room and move to the attic. Peter wants his beloved room back and engages in, I guess it could be considered a battle of wits, to get the job done.

The War with Grandpa was adapted from the best-selling children’s book of the same name by the late Robert Kimmel Smith. This family comedy doesn’t even try any sort of exploration of such themes about older adults like losing a spouse, the aging process, and self-worth. What it does have is plenty of unfunny and cruel pranks that should have killed every family member except the little one. It also has two fairly weird genitalia jokes involving De Niro and Riggle that miss their mark and would automatically disqualify it as a family film for children.

When the movie goes for family endearment, it has an awkward scene where the family, including the parents, blame Peter for their missing grandfather, which would scar any child for life. It fails to utilize the talents of Riggle and Christopher Walken, who always both have a direct line to anyone’s funny bone. This is a massive misfire on so many levels when a tiny bit of the effort would have gone a long way.

In The War with Grandpa, no one comes away unscathed, including the viewer.

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