'Undercover Grandpa': Film Review

UNDERCOVER GRANDPA -Still 1-Publicity-H 2017
Courtesy of CCI Entertainment
These veteran performers deserve better than this.

James Caan plays the title role in this family-geared action-comedy also featuring Lou Gossett Jr., Paul Sorvino and Jessica Walter.

There surely has to be a better retirement funding plan for aging actors than the likes of Erik Canuel’s Undercover Grandpa, an action-comedy that, like Bad Grandpa, gives grandparents a bad name. Starring James Caan — you might remember him from movies like The Godfather, Rollerball and Misery — and such estimable supporting players as Oscar winner Lou Gossett Jr., Paul Sorvino and Jessica Walter, the film is the sort of cinematic dreck that seems to think it deserves to be graded on a curve because it’s geared toward families.

Although the veteran Caan is top-billed, the film’s real star is Dylan Everett, who plays Jake, an awkward 17-year-old (is there any other kind?) who finally musters up the courage to ask out his dream girl, Angie (Greta Onieogou). Much to Jake’s annoyance, their date becomes delayed by his mother’s insistence that he first attend a family dinner with his grandfather Lou on one of the bimonthly occasions that the old codger leaves his nursing home.

During dinner, Jake exasperatedly puts up with his senile grandfather’s tall tales and war stories, including how he befriended Col. Sanders (then a private) and invented the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Claiming to be a former military intelligence officer, Lou doesn’t seem to mind that none of his family members seem to believe him.

But Jake becomes convinced when Angie winds up missing, the result of a mysterious kidnapping, and Lou springs into action to find and rescue her. This leads to a reunion with Madeline (Walter), a former colleague and clearly much more, who now heads a top-secret spy organization. “You always liked to be on top,” Lou saucily says to his former paramour.

In the course of the ensuing adventure in which Lou grapples with a series of B-movie bad guys, he rounds up his former team, a sort of geezer’s dirty half-dozen, played by the likes of Sorvino, Gossett, Lawrence Dane and veteran Canadian character actor Kenneth Welsh, the latter channeling Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown in his manic turn as a wild-haired mad scientist.

Neither remotely thrilling nor funny, the film basically spins its tedious wheels for most of its running time, apparently convinced that the mere presence of its distinguished cast provides sufficient entertainment. To be fair, there are times, however brief, that it does: Caan, to his credit, never appears to be going through the motions, although he must be ruing the number of ex-wives he’s accumulated; Walter, as always, is a tart delight; and Sorvino and Gossett at least don’t even try to pretend that they’re doing their own stunts. Undercover Grandpa isn’t any fun, but the table read must have been a hoot.   

Production companies: CCI Entertainment, Corus Entertainment
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Cast: James Caan, Dylan Everett, Lou Gossett Jr., Kenneth Welsh, Paul Sorvino, Jessica Walter, Lawrence Dane, Greta Oneiogo
Director: Erik Canuel
Screenwriter: Jeffrey Alan Schechter
Producers: Ronald J. Gilbert, Arnie Zipursky
Executive producers: Jeff Sackman, Arnie Zipursky
Director of photography: Pierre Gill
Production designer: Rocco Matteo
Editor: Jean-Francois Bergeron
Costume designer: Diana Irwin
Casting: Stephanie Gorin, Rich Mento

Rated PG-13, 99 minutes