When the U.S. Army recognizes that people are not as eager to enter the ranks as they once were, they decide to look for a poster child who embodies the all-American spirit, to boost their recruitment. To find such a poster child, the Army comes up with a plan to select him from among the fastest growing demographic in America, the hardcore video gamers. In order to appeal to topnotch gamers, they decide the best way is to inspire a video game company to create a realistic war game that tests people’s mettle and skill. Then hold a one million dollar contest, using the game to determine the best video gamer. And the contest winner gets the prize money and becomes the Army’s new spokesperson.
Forest is just such a hardcore video gamer. He lives with his hippy grandmother and her stoner tenant, Spencer, and wants to be a video game developer when he grows up. As such, he feels his massive amount of video game playing each day is a form of “research”. While his grandmother doesn’t approve of the violence of the games Forest plays, she is too caught up in her own social activism to put her foot down. Eventually, this ‘60’s-based activism leads her to chain herself to a tree (in protest of plans for it to be cut down), wherein she gets arrested, and goes to jail for a month.
So that the kids don’t get into trouble, during her jail stay, Grandma has her estranged husband come take care of the kids. The problem is that he’s a hardcore Army officer that feels the house should be run like an Army barracks. This seriously impairs Forest and Spencer’s attempts to chill out and play video games at first. Then Spencer discovers that Grandpa gives himself orders before bed each night via a mysterious box. Upon investigating further, to both boys surprise, they find out that the mysterious box is actually a post-hypnotic transmitter. And more importantly, that anyone who controls the transmitter has the ability to control Grandpa.
While at first they play at controlling Granpa by having him do chores, they quickly realize that he can be better utilized by having him give military advice on defeating the newly released, Bunker Blaster—the video game inspired by the Army, which has a $1 million dollar contest attached to it. If they can capitalize on his knowledge quickly enough, Forest could have a cool million in his pocket.
As any reader could predict, this path to certain victory is nowhere near as certain as Forest and Spencer think. As Murphy’s Law sticks its foot into their plans, they will have to think quickly to stay ahead of the resulting whirlwind of chaos. In the end, Forest has to decide what he really wants, both in his family and from his life.
The overall plot of Remote Control Grandpa was quirky and cute, with a theme about family and making a difference, that gives it the potential to be a broad reaching comedy. It has some truly amusing moments throughout, especially for fans of the Three Stooges-style of slapstick. While there are a couple painfully awkward moments in the film, these are mercifully short. The final ending works pretty well with the overall film, although it is fairly predictable.
Now, while the overall story and final ending works pretty well, there are several glitches that impair the overall flow.
The first thing that impaired the story flow came in the form of the performances of many of the side characters. The main characters of Grandpa, Forest, & Spencer were well developed and believable, but the other characters were a very mixed bag. There were a few that managed to be barely believable, like Professor Weisenheimer, the Austrian inventor responsible for the chip in grandpa’s brain, whose accent seemed to impair his line delivery occasionally. However, the majority of the side performances ranged from hard to accept—like Grandma, who looked and behaved too much like Martha Stewart to be believable as a hippy—to impossible to buy—like the two neighbors that repeatedly call to complain about Grandpa’s behavior, but who speak in extremely contrived accents to do so.
Some of these issues could be gotten rid of with some careful redubbing of their lines, such as giving the two neighbors less stilted voices. Other characters, like a Caucasian man who plays an Asian software developer, might be explained with an off-camera comment. For example, perhaps the receptionist at the software company could whisper, “the owner was adopted by an Asian family. Just accept the accent.”