Friday, October 9, 2020

'Grandpa' De Niro makes amends; Documentary on jail 'Time' truly ticks

Young Fegley and De Niro aren't always ready to Ho-Ho-Ho.
By the 70-minute mark or so, most except the youngest among us likely will be seriously ready to close the door on "The War with Grandpa." Before then -- and until some rather ridiculous turns, including a major Rube Goldbergian mishap that's really no surprise -- Robert De Niro in the title role certainly makes us forget "Dirty Grandpa," that vile movie dog he portrayed in 2016.

De Niro's ruggedly charming grandfather in this film, which many might think is a sequel, bears no resemblance to the lecherous old dude that harassed Zac Efron, but it has been sitting around since early 2018 because the original Weinstein Company distributors declared bankruptcy.

Now, of course, poor "Grandpa" not only has to deal with movie crowds worried about Covid-19, but also a sixth-grade grandson (Oakes Fegley, the kid who was so good in "Wonderstruck") out to win back his bedroom at all costs.

It begins when De Niro's recent widower, a retired builder, grudgingly agrees to live with the family of his daughter (Uma Thurman in slapstick mode), causing Fegley's smart if ever-beleaguered Peter to move into the "creepy" attic. 

From this (and a book) a silly comedy is born, complete with pals inspiring Peter to wage the war, the notably funny Christopher Walken urging chum Gramps to fight back, an adorable little sister (Poppy Gagnon) obsessed with Christmas year-round, and the requisite obnoxious teen (Laura Marano), who even gets to sing during some happy outtakes over the closing credits (where De Niro -- believe it or not -- actually smiles).

The whole shebang is directed by Tim Hill, a fellow of some "SpongeBob SquarePants" fame, so please understand such sensibilities. 

Rated "PG" by the MPAA: And "there is no diarrhea in this story"; 1:33; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Fox Rich faces unimaginable challenges in "Time." 
Also opening today (albeit exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theater in Cleveland Heights) is a fascinating documentary called "Time," referring both to the length of what seems like an inappropriately severe prison term and how a devoted woman spends years and years away from a husband serving that sentence.

In the case of Fox Rich, the remarkable Louisiana wife who recorded hundreds of hours of video so her man could watch their six kids -- all boys -- grow up, it turns into a lifetime crusade. 

Details of the pivotal crime committed are sketchy. All we learn for sure is that Fox herself dropped off Rob G. Rich and his nephew, whom we never hear about again, on a fateful day in 1997 with a clear intention to rob a Shreveport bank. The result: Fox agreed to a plea-bargained 12-year sentence, served three and initiated the videotapes eight days after her release. Much later, director Garrett Bradley turned them into this often moving film.

Meanwhile, husband Rob, who apparently refused to negotiate a deal, was sentenced to 65 years in prison with no parole for armed robbery. To see how that all turns out for everyone in the close knit Rich clan, do yourself a favor and make your own time to watch.

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: some strong language; 1:21; $ $ $ $ out of $5

No comments: