The lock-downs in some states have made movie producers unwilling to release new films in areas where movie theaters are open. But in MHK, at least, there are moviegoers when the multi-plex has something to offer them.
So, for example, there was a decent crowd in the local AMC theater for first night showings of the new movie “The War With Grandpa,” a family comedy with Robert De Niro and a good adult cast.
In a happy coincidence, the movie that attracted an audience was worth going to see. “The War With Grandpa” is good-natured, colorful, fast moving and good hearted.
It is also ungainly. The story is essentially a record of pranks 12-year-old Peter pulls on his grandfather and of his grandfather’s answering tricks. The instances are numerous enough. But they aren’t arranged so that the action becomes wilder or more imaginative until the story’s climax. In fact, “The War With Grandpa” comes close to not having a satisfactory ending at all.
But look at what it has to offer. Grandpa (De Niro) is moved into Peter’s room in the home of his daughter’s family.
The daughter is played by Uma Thurman, who hasn’t been in enough movies the last five years. Her husband is played by Rob Riggle, probably in a concession to the family movie crowd that favors broad and even slapstick humor.
Grandpa Ed’s posse includes Christopher Walken and Cheech “Dave’s not here” Marin. Struggling with self check-out at a store, Ed meets a character played by Jane Seymour, who becomes his romantic interest. Peter’s sisters are well-cast, as are his school chums. Faizon Love, from “The Replacements,” even has a scene.
Worried at school by a bully, Peter finds his domestic relegation to the attic more than he can take. So he declares a sort of limited war on his grandfather, who responds more or less in kind when the kid attacks.
So if Peter lets a pet snake loose in Grandpa’s bed, the old guy will take all the screws and bolts out of the furniture in his grandson’s bedroom. Then the snake gets into Ma’s car and she tosses it out a window at a stop sign. Unfortunately there is a cycle cop right next to her to catch the wriggling pet.
Gramp’s turntable speeds up until it flings away an LP as if it were a Frisbee. Peter’s school backpack, when opened, jettisons a portion of chili. Ironically this happens when the bully opens the pack. Eventually Grandpa and friends take on Peter and friends in a game of dodge ball played on a mall trampoline. And so on.
All the while Ed is finding pauses in the hostilities to take Peter fishing or to look at houses Gramps built. Or he is cuddling the younger sister, a little girl whose birthday party will have a “Christmas theme.” Or he is encouraging his son-in-law to show a little personal ambition. And Mom is trying to stop her teen-aged daughter’s romance. Ed has advice about that, too.
So Ed’s residency is actually a boon to the household. But still Peter feels the loss of the room. So the pranks go on.
There are a couple of funny lines in the film. Riggle actually underplays the delivery of his best one: “My franks!” But the movie is generally good-natured rather than laugh-out-loud funny. Still, it seemed to entertain the bunch of us who showed up for the first Friday evening showing last week.
Note that the 13-plex is no longer open on Wednesdays and Thursdays. But just as our evaluation of public health circumstances hasn’t led to the cancellation of sports, at least for now there are still going to be movie showings (with seats cleaned and patrons reasonably isolated) for the foreseeable future. Thank goodness.