The War with Grandpa, by Albert W. Vogt III

Movie watching in the time of COVID-19 is difficult, but then again what is not hard at the moment? Thus when casting about for a film to see in the theater, it was slim pickings as usual. It was either The War with Grandpa or Henchmen. Let us retroactively consider the options. Both are kid films, so already I am not savoring how I will spend my Saturday night. One, Henchmen, is animated, which is a turn-off for me. Based solely on the preview, it also seems to be about a guy aspiring to be a super-villain, and that is somewhat troubling in my view. The other has Uma Thurman in it as the mom, Sally Decker, and is decidedly not animated. I miss Uma Thurman. Not the Uma Thurman of Pulp Fiction (1994), mind you. I believe I have said elsewhere that I may be the only person on the planet above the age of thirty who does not like that film. Rather, I miss the Uma Thurman of Kill Bill: Volumes 1 & 2 (2003 & 2004), slicing her way to vengeance for losing her child. Then again, that Uma Thurman is a long way off from Sally Decker. So, between my wish to honor my love of those films, and wanting to see if this business of taking kids to see kids’ movies has any merits, I picked up my nieces and we saw The War with Grandpa.

Aging is difficult for the young and old alike, and The War with Grandpa reinforces that for both young Peter Decker (Oakes Fegley) and his grandfather Ed (Robert De Niro). When Ed proves himself to be having difficulties taking care of himself, Sally goes to her father to invite him to live with her family. This involves giving Peter’s room to Ed, a fact about which the newly minted middle schooler is none to pleased. His friends convince him that the best course of action is to declare war on his grandfather, and Peter even drafts a formal declaration. At first Ed does not take it seriously, wanting instead to ingratiate himself as much as possible in his new home. But after a few pranks, Ed sees that Peter is determined, and they have an agreement that whatever happens will be solely between them. What follows is a series of pranks played on each other that get progressively more personal. Their feud comes to a head at Peter’s litter sister Jeffifer’s (Poppy Gagnon) Christmas themed birthday party. Though they each seemingly called a truce, they had devised little tricks on one another that results in the event devolving into chaos and part of the Decker’s house being demolished by a fallen tree. Seeing the trouble they caused their family was enough for them to put aside their differences, and to see the value of what they have as a family.

That is really it with The War with Grandpa. It is not terribly complicated, and has an all too predictable ending. I was happy to not only see Uma Thurman getting a new role, but Cheech Marin also makes an appearance as the forgettable friend of Ed, Danny. Throw Jane Seymour as Diane and Christopher Walken as Jerry into that category as well. The laughs were not really there for me either, so I guess that means my little experiment demonstrates that I am immune to kids movies. Regardless, I will dutifully take my children to such films if they so desire, should I be blessed with a family one day. But, come on. Is it that funny that Peter replaces Ed’s shaving cream with a foaming glue? I was also a little disappointed that the makers of this “comedy” had to resort to Robert De Niro dropping his pants in a couple of scenes. Ha ha ha, old guy with his trousers around his ankles. Thankfully all the bits were tastefully covered. This is a PG film, after all.

As odd as this might sound, The War with Grandpa is an anti-war movie, so I could at least appreciate that facet. There is the tired argument critics of the Catholic Church level against it when it comes to its stance on war, and it can be summed up in one word: Crusades. In the movie, Ed says something about such conflicts that are not too far off from what the Church teaches about warfare. Before they begin their prank feud, the more seasoned citizen warns Peter that war is no game, that it hurts, and that only kids and generals think it’s great. The collateral damage incurred at Jennifer’s party furthers the notion that truly nobody wins in such situations. And for those of you who believe that the Church is more gung-ho than it lets on, consider the life of St. Francis of Assisi. While he is known more for his sermon to the animals (that is one of the ways you can always spot his statues, the animals), at the height of the Crusades he traveled to where the fighting was taking place in order to (unsuccessfully as it turned out) put an end to the killing, attempting to do so with the Church’s blessing. By this time, it was more of a clash between nations anyway, rather than any true concern for the Holy Land. In other words, it was all about the generals by that point.

There is nothing special about The War with Grandpa. Then again, any time you have an opportunity to instill in younger audiences the values of peace and family, that is worth something. Anyway, my overall hope is that you start patronizing movie theaters again. Please take all the precautions you must, but get back out there if you can and feel comfortable doing so. The movies need you, and hopefully there will be some better ones soon.

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