Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken Reunite to Take on the Kids in Family Comedy ‘The War With Grandpa’
Robert De Niro, alongwith Christopher Walken, braved the Vietnam War in “The Deer Hunter,” but nothing has prepared them for a group of wily sixth graders in “The War With Grandpa.” De Niro stars as Ed, a senior citizen who reluctantly moves in with his daughter, Sally (Uma Thurman), and her family. This change in living arrangements also irks his 12-year-old grandson, Peter (Oakes Fegley), as dear old grandpa takes over his room, forcing him to live in the mouse-infested attic. It’s not long before the kid declares “war” on gramps, pulling a series of pranks in order to get him to surrender the room. However, Grandpa has a few tricks of his own.
Ed is no stranger to chaos, and when we first meet him, he’s challenging a grocery store manager (Faizon Love) who’s directed him to use self-check out. Technology isn’t a strength of Ed’s, and his frustration leads him to walk out with his food unpaid for. When the manager tries to stop him, a senior citizen riot ensues. After a call from the police, Sally puts her foot down and makes her dad, a recent widower, move out of his house into hers. In addition to Sally and Peter, the household also includes Arthur (Rob Riggle), Sally’s husband who works a soul-sucking corporate job that Ed disapproves of, hormone-fueled teen Mia (Laura Marano), and adorable, Christmas-obsessed little girl Jennifer (Poppy Gagnon).
Ed, a verteran, initially doesn’t take it very seriously when Peter slips a “declaration of war” underneath his door. However, he is forced to take up arms, so to speak, after Peter’s pranks become increasingly elaborate. He’s even driven to call in renforcement from his friends, adventurer Jerry (Walken). ladies man Danny (Cheech Marin), and Diane (Jane Seymour) a kindred spirit he meets working at an electronics store. The battle of the generations has never been more fun than when those four go head to head with Peter and his pals (Juliocesar Chavez, Isaac Kragten, T.J. McGibbon) in what turns out to be a heated dodgeball game. More sensitive viewers may dislike Peter for some of his actions, such as a prank involving a jar of marbles that leaves Ed lying on his backside, but the old man comes to give it as good as he gets it.
It is always a delight to see De Niro, who is best known for his collaborations with Martin Scorsese, show off his comedic gifts, from movies like “Meet the Parents” to his hosting stints on “Saturday Night Live.” “SNL” fans cannot help but think of his memorable sketch “Pranksters” while watching “The War with Grandpa.” The same can also be said for Walken, although his playing a comedic role has become more of the rule rather than the exception. De Niro really leans into the physical comedy, and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Even Thurman, an actor one doesn’t usually associate with comedy, gets laughs, especially after Sally accidentally becomes the target of multiple pranks.
All of this fun and silliness leads to some much-needed dialogue between Ed and Peter. But there’s a lesson that kids and adults can take away about the value of communication, especially between close family members.
“The War With Grandpa” opens Oct. 9 in select cities.