The “war” unfolds with a series of escalating pranks, at least two of which leave Ed without his pants, which about sums up the level of comedic aspirations. Fortunately, he has reinforcements (basically seconds in the duel, to counter Peter’s chums) played by Christopher Walken and Cheech Marin, with Jane Seymour subsequently joining in as a welcome new addition to their ranks.
As for the generation caught between them, Peter’s folks (with Rob Riggle as his dad) are a slight cut above the usual Charlie Brown-parents in these kind of movies, occasionally getting unwittingly drawn into the conflict. Peter is also a middle child, bookended by sisters with concerns of their own.
The shame of it is that “The War With Grandpa” would have been one of those disposable live-action movies families could have seen together, violating the “Seinfeld” “No hugging. No learning” rule in an inoffensive way. As is, while the film is indeed opening in theaters, under current conditions it’s hard to imagine many people wanting to venture out for a confection that’s basically a TV movie, just with an unexpectedly starry cast.
Whenever and wherever kids do see it, they’re apt to enjoy it, while the theme reminds the adults in their lives that the differences and that come between families — from politics to something as frivolous as a kid’s bedroom — finally aren’t as significant as the deeper bonds that they share.
In that sense, “The War With Grandpa” might be a slim construct, but at least it carries the message that blood is thicker than water — or, in Peter’s case, real estate.
“The War With Grandpa” premieres in theaters on Oct. 9. It’s rated PG.