"War with Grandpa" mildly enjoyable kid fare

Robert De Niro (right) and Oakes Fegley appear in a scene from "The War with Grandpa."

"The War with Grandpa" is the kind of family film that in non-pandemic times would have slipped in, and out, of theaters with very little fanfare.

But in a market place where family films are skipping theatrical release and going straight to streaming, "Grandpa" gets added attention - only heightened by a cast that includes Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman, and Christopher Walken (no really).

Those names are enough to peak any filmgoers curiosity, but is this a family film for the whole family?

I'll concede I am not the target audience for "Grandpa," but it did manage to exceed my low expectations - to a point.

In "Grandpa" De Niro plays Ed who decides to move in with his daughter Sally (Thurman) and her family. At first Sally's son Peter (Oakes Fegley) is happened to have his grandpa move in. The mood quickly changes when Ed moves into Peter's room, relegating Peter to the attic. 

Determined to get his room back, Peter wages war on Ed concocting a series of pranks with his friends designed to convince his grandfather to move out.

"The War with Grandpa" was directed by Tim Hill, who has plenty of experience with family films. And for a while Hill manages to keep things moving along at a zippy, although predictable, pace.

The best moments come early, when "Grandpa" focuses on its respective leading characters friendships. Scenes with Peter and his friends in the school lunch room and scenes with Ed hanging out with his friends (Walken and Cheech Marin) have an easy going charm that at least allowed me to invest in the characters (and wonder why everyone from De Niro to Thurman to Jane Seymour agreed to be in this film).

But once the 'war' actually begins, "Grandpa" gets repetitive and unoriginal - coming off like a second rate "Home Alone" rip-off. It all builds to a final act that includes a message that is totally out of place.

If "Grandpa" could have delivered more low key moments and less juvenile slapstick I think it could have been a pleasant surprise. As it is, it's a film that children will likely enjoy - but parents will quickly lose patience with.

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