“The War with Grandpa” (PG) ***
THE screenplay for director Tim Hill’s movie is based on the adaptation by Tom Astle of Robert Kimmel Smith’s 1984 novel.
Widower Ed (Robert De Niro) moves to the house occupied by daughter Sally (Uma Thurman) and her family, husband Arthur (Rob Riggle), teenager Mia (Laura Marano), 12-year-old Peter (Oakes Fegley) and six-year-old Jennifer (Poppy Gagnon).
In a 94-minute Hollywoodian view of the American dream, seen through a glass that, if not darkly, is a little murky, the plot rotates around Peter’s reaction to being removed to the attic so that Ed may move into his beloved bedroom.
The action involves Peter’s resentment, spurred on more than a little by advice from his class contemporaries.
A short list of words for the film’s depiction of Peter’s campaign to get his room back includes slapstick, silent-era pratfalls, predictability. Family domesticity involves references to bodily functions that have led American commentators to warn parents. The violence is down-played in that nobody gets seriously injured.
Does it work? The answer to that question is as variable as the folk who wonder about it and their personal attitudes and preferences. None of the actors has his or her skills stretched. De Niro gets the best of the action; Ed understands Peter’s viewpoint but isn’t about to let the boy win. It’s morally uncomplicated. It’s amusing rather than funny ha ha. Few people would call it clever.
Reflecting the American dream from a variety of angles, the film was actually ready for distribution in 2017 but issues with the Weinstein Company led to release delays until last October. Its distributors have spent $US24 million promoting it. I hope they’re comfortable about its slow progress so far to profit.
At Dendy, Palace Electric, Hoyts Woden and Limelight