Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Is there a Geneva Convention against bad filmmaking?


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The story? Ed (De Niro) moves in with daughter Sally (Thurman) and her husband (Rob Riggle) after the death of his wife. They give him the room of their son Peter (Fegley) and move the boy into the attic. The kid decides this eviction requires retaliation. Ed follows suit. Cartoonish mayhem, comic nudity and hits to the groin follow.

Why not just smear meat on the film and release it in a lion’s den?

The film is based on the novel by children’s author Robert Kimmel Smith, who sadly passed away in April, but at least didn’t have to see the film. The screenplay plays fast and loose with character’s motivations and abilities. De Niro is unable to operate a self-serve checkout in one scene, but figures out drone technology in the next, and then hacks his way into Peter’s computer. Riggle’s character has a natural aversion to seeing his father-in-law naked, but screams and stands stock still for minutes on end rather than, I don’t know, close his eyes or look away.

Oh, and Peter’s little sister, played by Poppy Gagnon (who I’m guessing must be in high school by now), makes the classic mistake of referring to the Christmas movie as The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (which presupposes multiple Grinches) rather than How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which is a how-dunnit. If How Grandpa Went to War had given me more to think and/or laugh about I probably wouldn’t have noticed this error, but I did, and it rankles.

There’s more, including a useless subplot involving a school bully, and another in which Thurman’s character becomes so much collateral damage in the inter-generational conflict. (Also: Would it hurt her to act? At least De Niro seems to be trying his best with the admittedly flimsy material.)

The War with Grandpa is ultimately a war of attrition. Good luck making it through its 94 minutes before waving a white flag and crying surrender. As audiences continue their retreat from physical movie theatres, this film seems like it’s trying to push them out the door rather than begging them to stay.

The War With Grandpa opens across Canada on Oct. 9.

1 star out of 5

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