Is your grandpa really who you think he is? (Are you reading this, grandkids?) Or, like Jake’s grandpa played by James Caan in Undercover Grandpa, does he have a secret identity?
Jake’s fun and dramatic discoveries about his grandpa helped Undercover Grandpa win the Best Feature Foreign Comedy accolade at the International Family Film Festival (IFFF), which took place at the historic Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, October 20-23.
An awesome cast, combining a slew of “experienced” actors and two bright and shiny young stars, make this fun on multiple levels.
The story has a deceptively simple premise. Jake is on his way to pick up his date when his mom reminds him that this is the night for Grandpa’s monthly visit. Grandpa only gets out of the old folks home one day a month and, after dinner, it’s Jake’s turn to drive him back to the home.
The drive back spirals into an adventure.
The plot is somewhat derivative of the Bruce Willis film Red, or any of the many films where an old soldier recruits his former teammates for “one last mission.” But, in filmmaking, it’s often not about the story, but about how the story is told.
Undercover Grandpa is an exciting action/adventure with its tongue firmly implanted in its cheek. Although based on a ten-year old script by Jeffrey Schechter, the story was updated to include current technology, such as cell phones.
The relationship between Jake and his Grandpa is enjoyable to watch as Jake slowly becomes aware that the old guy is not senile and paranoid after all. Well, maybe a little paranoid, but he does have real enemies.
I guessed the ending, and you probably will too, but that didn’t make it any less fun.
Besides James Caan, who plays Grandpa, his team is a collection of classic movie personalities. Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas), Louis Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman), and Lawrence Dane (Scanners) all add to the fun. My favorite on the oldie team, however, was Kenneth Welsh.
Welsh, not as well known as the other actors, plays an eccentric scientist. From the moment he opened the door, answering Caan’s knock, he reminded me both of Frank Morgan in the Wizard of Oz and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future. He channeled both classic characters into his own original creation. His performance was a highlight of the film and the flowing white hair was his own.
Grandpa’s former flame and now off-and-on nemesis, head of a spy organization known only as ASPIC, is played by Jessica Walter (Play Misty for Me). Walter has been on almost every classic TV series and her crowning achievement, in my opinion, was her role as Lucile Bluth on Arrested Development. The banter between Caan and Walter is full of subtext and double entendre. When Grandpa finds out she is running the spy agency, he says, “You always liked to be on top.”
Jake, the young man who must chauffeur Grandpa, is played by Dylan Everett (Degrassi: The Next Generation) and his girlfriend is played by Greta Onieogou (Heartland). Everett won the IFFF Best Child Actor award.
I enjoyed the story line for their characters because, unlike the overall plot, the blossoming relationship between these two is not cliché.
Onieogou’s character is on the softball team and she pitches like she could play in the majors. She was the girlfriend of one of the high school’s star football players, but, much to Jake’s delight, they have broken up.
Jake asks her out, forgetting about Grandpa, and in the resulting confusion, she is put in life-threatening danger.
Both Everett and Onieogou give excellent performances and they would make the film worth seeing, even without all those older actors in it.
See the Film
So, where did this Best Feature Foreign Comedy award winner come from? Far off, exotic Canada. Toronto to be exact. Distribution plans are not yet set, so to find out when you can be charmed by this film check the CCI Entertainment website.