The War with Grandpa
After his wife dies and he gets into a physical altercation with a security guard at a supermarket, Ed (Robert De Niro) agrees to move into the home of his daughter, Sally (Uma Thurman). Her husband, Arthur (Rob Riggle) and daughters, Jenny (Poppy Gagnon) and Mia (Laura Marano), don't mind Ed's presence, but her 12-year-old son Peter (Oakes Fegley) does. Why? Because Ed sleeps in his room while he has to sleep in the attic. He soon declares war on his grandpa and stages pranks with the help of his friends to force him out of the house while hoping that none of his family members suspect anything.
The War with Grandpa takes a lame, silly, mean-spirited premise and turns it into a lame, silly, mean-spirited movie. None of the characters behave in a way that make them seem even remotely believable or even likable for that matter. Who is the audience supposed to even root for when every character on screen is annoying, immature and dumb? Even the addition of Cheech Marin and Christopher Walken as Ed's new friends doesn't help to generate any laughter, although there are plenty of cringe-inducing moments. A subplot involving Ed flirting with a supermarket cashier, Diane (Jane Seymour), falls flat. The same can be said for any of the notes that the screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember aim for. None of the beats land whether the film is trying to be funny, sweet or wise---in fact, it doesn't warm the heart nor does it teach any valuable lessons because Peter is never held accountable for the way he physically abuses his grandpa. His grandpa enables him, but that's no excuse for Peter to cross boundaries and hurt his own flesh and blood. He's a bad seed and clearly hasn't learned from his mistakes by the end of the film. He's what you'd imagine Donald Trump was like during his childhood which shaped the way he is today: angry, vengeful, selfish, rude, inconsiderate, obnoxious, reckless, lacking empathy and unable to change. Much like Trump, Peter doesn't have any good role models to look up to.
If the attempts at comedy were funny, The War with Grandpa could've been a guilty pleasure instead of a guilty displeasure. Director Tim Hill along with editors Peter S. Elliot and Craig Herring let too many painfully unfunny scenes overstay their welcome and resort to the lowest common denominator to try to make the audience laugh. They try too hard, though, and forget to include wit or anything that would make adults laugh. Little kids might find the slapstick amusing, but Home Alone did it a lot better with more warmth and some valuable life lessons about family along the way. This film is a prime example of what happens when filmmakers try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one. Families would be better off watching the underrated 90's family comedy House Arrest which everyone, young and old, can enjoy because it's funny without pandering to adults, has relatable themes for kids and adults, and doesn't become too mean-spirited like The War with Grandpa does. At a running time of 1 hour and 34 minutes, which feels more like 2 hours, The War with Grandpa is one of the worst family comedies in recent memory.
Rose Garcia (Eva Noblezada), an undocumented 17-year-old from the Phillipines, aspires to become a country music singer. She lives with her mother, Priscilla (Princess Punzalan), in Austin, Texas. While Rose goes out with her boyfriend, Elliot (Liam Booth), to watch country singer Dale Watson perform, ICE agents show up to arrest and deport her mother. Now homeless, Rose accepts help from her boyfriend along with a kind and compassionate bar owner, Jolene (Libby Villari), and Dale Watson, both of whom provide her with a place to sleep.
Yellow Rose suffers from a somewhat contrived, on-the-nose screenplay by writer/director Diane Paragas and co-writers Annie J. Howell and Celena Cipriaso, but the heartfelt performances and the charisma of its actors make it an emotionally engrossing experiences. Too many coincidences occur to Rose that makes the film seem less realistic and more like a fairy tale. For example, when an ICE agent sees Rose hiding out at Jolene's bar during a raid, he just so happens to have a heart of gold and doesn't arrest her. Elliot just so happens to have a relative who can help to free Rose's mother from prison. Dale Watson just so happens to come to Rose's rescue and provide her with a roof over her head. The only people who treat her less kindly are her wealthy aunt Gail (Lea Salonga). Although the screenplay shies away from confronting its darker themes unflinchingly, at least it avoids the use of flashbacks and voice-over narration to tell its story. The few quieter moments as Rose and Dale sit down to talk are among the most powerful and affecting scenes. It's too bad that Paragas doesn't show Rose talking to Jolene about her struggles; the film skips over that scene and cuts to Rose eating food at Jolene's bar which Jolene paid for after she, presumably, heard what Rose had been through.
The blossoming romance between Rose and Elliot isn't among the film's strengths because it's not fleshed out nor is the chemistry between them palpable enough. Rose's friendship with Dale is far more interesting, and their interactions and connection provide for the film's emotional center. Admittedly, the screenwriters don't do a particularly good job when it comes to incorporating exposition nor do they trust the audience's emotions enough because there's over-explaining which doesn't leave enough room for interpretation. You also don't learn where Rose got her nickname "Yellow Rose" until much later on when Rose briefly talks about her childhood traumas. Although it's uplifting to observe Rose rise above her adversities as she pursues her country music career, Yellow Rose squanders the opportunity to rise above mediocrity and to be much more powerful by not delving into Rose's innate struggles more profoundly. The film's depth comes from the moving, emotionally truthful performances, especially those of Rose Noblezada and Dale Watson. They both radiate plenty of much-needed warmth and charisma which brings their characters to life.