This impish comedy brings the whole family together with a nod to appreciating their elders just a little more. In other words, there's a winner in this War -- and it's grandparents. More than 18% of the U.S. population (about 57 million households) live in multigenerational households, and The War with Grandpa is one of the few mainstream films to represent that reality on-screen. That number has actually doubled since the movie's inspiration, Robert Keller Smith's popular children's novel, was first published in 1984. But that's not the only thing that's changed. Many people now have a greater awareness of how we treat one another -- and, as a result, some of the prank scenes are more wince-inducing than laugh-creating. The page vs. screen delivery system also has an impact. Reading about an 11-year-old tricking his grandfather into dropping marbles all over the floor plays differently than watching a 75-year-old man slip and fall flat on his back. That's a big part of why the cartoonish violence here is more heart-stopping than in, say, Home Alone: The targets in that movie were hardened, 30-something scoundrels, while here it's an older man who's so fragile his family thinks it's no longer safe for him to live alone.
If Peter going after his grandfather feels unlikely, it's far more believable how Grandpa decides he'll defend his territory, particularly thanks to De Niro's charming performance. With his gentle, soothing voice and attitude, Grandpa never boils into rage (although it would be hard to blame him if he did), and he even shows a sense of respect for Peter's tactics: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, it seems. Ed is having fun with the war, and his attitude lets viewers know that it's OK to laugh and enjoy the film. Moreover, every family member ultimately realizes how much they gain from giving up a little space for Grandpa. While a nice lesson is inserted at the end about why we should avoid war, it's pretty apples to oranges. The better, stronger message lands much more clearly: Spend some time with Grandpa; you won't regret it.