The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
The elderly, aside from children, are often viewed as society’s most valuable citizens. However, in the latest Robert De Niro vehicle The War With Grandpa, the two are pitted against each other. The result, while ridiculous, is an undeniably good time geared towards all ages.
While director Tim Hill doesn’t do anything too exceptional behind the camera, I must applaud him for making this film so enjoyable. Granted, he’s not one of the writers, but the way he frames the story - as a series of comedic sketches - not only makes it easier to ingest, but also keeps the viewer constantly entertained.
I can especially attest to that. I went into this film fully expecting to hate it, but I actually had a really good time. With a resume that includes a handful of Spongebob episodes, the first two movies, and Rocko’s Modern Life though, it makes sense. Hill demonstrates his knack for short form comedy perfectly.
Based on Robert Kimmel Smith’s novel of the same name, the film revolves around a young boy named Peter who is forced to give up his room and move to the attic when his grandfather moves into the family’s home. In an attempt to scare him away, he engages in a prank war with his grandfather. What starts off as an intimidation tactic quickly turns into a battle of wits when his grandfather starts retaliating.
On paper this film sounds ridiculous, which is why I had such low expectations for it, but some of the pranks that the two pull on each other are genuinely “laugh out loud” funny. The biggest aspect of the story, which contributes to the humor, is the agreement the two draw up to ensure that nobody else knows about their warfare and that nobody else gets hurt. This pact constantly backfires though, as several characters face the consequences for their actions throughout the film.
Despite being entertaining, the film does run out of fuel by the halfway mark. That’s because human beings can only watch pranks for so long. Eventually the film does start to focus on the bond the two inadvertently form, but it never feels sincere. You want to believe that the two of them really do care for each other, but there’s so much dishonesty throughout the film that you can’t tell.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Who knew that in 2020 Robert De Niro would deliver his second greatest scene in front of a mirror? I certainly didn’t. In all seriousness, De Niro is surprisingly good here. He plays the titular Grandpa, and while his performance isn’t Oscar worthy, given the material and the type of film this is, he plays his character very straight.
Now, I thought Oakes Fegley was just okay. He plays Peter, and while I did think his chemistry with De Niro was good, I feel like any kid could have probably played the role.
Aside from De Niro and Fegley though, the film is littered with A-Listers. For instance, Uma Thurman plays De Niro’s daughter/Fegley’s mom. For an actress that rarely dabbles in comedy, you can tell that she has a lot of fun here, especially as one of the many characters constantly affected by the pranks indirectly.
Christopher Walken and Cheech Marin also appear in the film as De Niro’s senior friends. The film really peaks whenever the three of them are together because the shenanigans they get into are hilarious. In fact, I think it’s in these scenes that Hill’s experience with comedy is most prevalent. From breaking windows to breaking hips, they’re easily the best part of the film, and I actually think they deserve their own spin-off.
Has A Genuine Ability To Entertain ...
THE WAR WITH GRANDPA (2020)
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Surprisingly, a slew of the pranks pulled are practical. There’s even one involving a snake that looks realistic. The only part of the film with any noticeable VFX is the climax.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Admittedly there are some moments where the ADR done in post production is noticeable, but it doesn’t necessarily ruin the film. Conversely, the film’s score/soundtrack does nothing to enhance the film either.
Of all the films where Robert De Niro plays a grandfather, especially Dirty Grandpa, this is the one worth watching. In many ways this film follows the formula of a generic family comedy; what sets it apart from so many others is its genuine ability to entertain. While not perfect, it’s a nice little distraction that has something for all ages.