- Katie Bell
The War with Grandpa (2020)
The film, The War with Grandpa (2020), is based on the young adult novel, by Robert Kimmel Smith, of the same name. Now, this is the part of the review where I write something witty about having checked the Rotten Tomatoes and Goodreads results, and realised that I should have reviewed the book instead... Except it's not, because at the time this review is being written, the novel has a respectable 3.83/5 on Goodreads, but the audience score for the film is 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. WHAT? The people think that this film deserves an A? I've officially lost all faith in humanity...
The War with Grandpa follows the great battles of Peter (Oakes Fegley), a sixth grade middle school student, and Grandpa De Niro, a recently widowed and somewhat stubborn retiree. Grandpa De Niro, or GDN as he is more affectionately referred, moves in with his daughter and her family, after a faux pas at a shopping centre... It isn't a faux pas. GDN can't work out the self-serve checkout, because GDN is OLD, so he steals his groceries. Mum acknowledges that GDN is OLD, so she gives him Peter's room, and Peter is forced to move into the attic with the mice and the rats and the bats. Enter the war games. (Seriously though, could they not have removed the animals first?)
At its very core, this film is 90 minutes of pranks. On a scale of bad pranks to great pranks, these certainly rank higher than the pranks of Pup Academy, but they also aren't the greatest pranks in the world. There's the good ol' snake in the bed, removing the screws from the furniture, changing up the shaving cream and more. This prank war goes for a long time and unfortunately, there weren't many pranks that took me by surprise, or made me laugh. Thankfully though, when I viewed this film, my cinema was occupied by children and teenagers whose reactions did enhance my viewing experience (a sentence that I never dreamed I'd write). In the moment when GDN removes the screws from all of Peter's furniture, and Peter is waltzing around the room being afflicted by collapsing desks, office chairs and beds, the audience was completely silent. No reaction. No laughter. No nothing. Only a few minutes later however, Peter removes his Air Jordans from his locker and they are now covered in pretty pink lovehearts and bedazzled with cute gems. Suddenly, the audience awakens. "Ohhhhhh noooooooooooooooo," they collectively cry. You got 'em, Tim Hill. You got the young people right in the feels...and I thought it was hilarious! I get it, Air Jordans, they're expensive, they're rare, they're hard to acquire in sixth grade. Still though, I didn't expect this prank, to be the prank that sends the audience into a pit of despair. That moment happened much later for me: Peter presses OLD man GDN's panic button whilst he is sleeping, and the ambulance officers who arrive begin to aggressively shake and berate GDN in an effort to treat him. It wasn't far from abuse. I was horrified.
Although this film isn't hugely successful in the laughs department, I will freely admit that it is very successful in terms of advertising Lyft, the rideshare company. GDN is OLD; he doesn't understand the technologies. He still listens to records. But boy does he get Lyft. Lyft is convenient and easy! At the swipe of a button your ride has arrived! #Lyft. Your friend with a car. I digress, GDN is also impressed with Lyft, because every time he seemingly orders a ride, it's the same person who rocks up: Chuck. And Chuck dresses like a personal security detail, which is what every retiree on a fishing trip really needs. 5 stars.
Now for my final paragraph, and the most puzzling part of this film. Peter's younger sister Jennifer, is obsessed with Christmas. She wanders around singing Christmas carols and decorating her half of the bedroom in Christmas paraphernalia. In fact, Jennifer loves Christmas so much, that she has a Christmas themed birthday party. "Merry Birthday Jennifer!" the people exclaim. Now, I'm not sure if Jennifer is obsessed with Christmas, because she's young and small children often have obsessions, or because they wanted a quick way to make this film marketable around Christmas time? It could be either, and honestly, that's not the confusing part. The confusing part, is that for Jennifer's Christmas themed birthday party, her parents go all out. There's a jumping castle, there's a banner, there's face paint, all the usual stuff. However, there is also a winter wonderland, complete with numerous Christmas trees, costumes and fake snow falling from the sky. To say it's excessive, would be a gross understatement. Now, riddle me this, if you have so much disposable income that you are able to hire fake snow and multiple Christmas trees for a birthday party in the off season, why can't you move into a house that's big enough for everyone? Mum even says, "It's not about the house or the money," when pranking goes too far. These people clearly have a lot of money! What are they doing?
Evidently, I am not going to recommend that you view this film. You could however, fast-forward to the middle, to watch the one moment that I actually really enjoyed. GDN sits in his/Peter's bedroom, watching the sunset through his window. We don't see the sun, but an orange glow warms his face. Jennifer enters. She carries a tablet, and as young people do, asks GDN to play with her. He declines. She is insistent, pointing out all the great games that they could play. A white light, projected by the device, illuminates her face. The juxtaposition between the lighting is beautiful, and communicates a profound message about age/generations, but also about the way that we choose to spend our time. It was beautiful. And I feel like it was very purposeful... But it was still only one minute of goodness. So all in all, probably not worth it....