There are some movies that just simply try too hard; “Dirty Grandpa” is one of them.
I tried to like this movie—really, I did. Some moments made me completely forget that I was watching a film filled with irreverent, over-the-top humor, absurd usage of puns and completely nonsensical pacing and story-development. But, like any bad comedy, a crudely-drawn phallic symbol presents itself on screen to remind the audience just what kind of movie they’ve gotten themselves into.
Following the death of his grandmother, an uppity, boring lawyer, Jason (Zac Efron), is forced into driving his now-widowed grandfather, Dick (Robert De Niro), down to Florida for a supposed annual tradition. In actuality, the trip is just a trick to allow Dick to hit on college students and engage in a weekend of debauchery and lewdness. To make matters worse, Jason is getting married to the primp and unreasonable Meredith (Julianne Hough) who calls him almost hourly to hound him about the wedding. Think “The Hangover” meets “Bad Grandpa” and you pretty much get the gist.
What follows is an insane, mostly incomprehensible journey where a lot of expository information is cut in order to make more room for long, rambling, sexually-fueled tirades and moments where Efron can take his shirt off. The pacing of the film never seems to have crossed the mind of director, Dan Mazer.
The real pity here is that Efron and De Niro share a number of moments with surprising chemistry on-screen; however, these moments only come when there are no attempts to be funny—especially not when De Niro is trying to shove his thumb up Efron’s ass. When the two just sit down and air out grievances, especially when we learn more about De Niro’s character, it almost feels like the movie could have been much better.
“Dirty Grandpa” tries to hit every mark in the raunchy comedy book; phallic-shaped swastikas: check. Zac Efron naked doing the Macarena: check. A little boy trying to touch Efron’s private parts: check. A foul-mouthed, immature grandpa who spews racial and homophobic slurs: check. But hardly any of these attempts at being funny actually end up being funny. It seems like the only times the movie actually is funny are when it isn’t trying too hard to be completely outrageous. The hardest I laughed was when Efron flexes and lets a fart rip.
Quick question, does a character—after being jokingly referred to as a lesbian—explaining that a joke was offensive make said joke any less offensive? Absolutely not, but that’s the sort of humor you can expect from Mazer, who happens to be the producer of “Borat” and “Brüno,” two of the most offensive and controversial films of the last decade.
I would really like to know just how much everybody on this film got paid, because I can assure you that this film itself could probably count as a low point in the careers of many of its stars—especially De Niro. Efron, still recovering from the catastrophic flop “We Are Your Friends” is at first a respectable character, but hardly half-an-hour in he becomes so unlikable that the audience is forced to wonder why he makes it back to his wedding at all. Aubrey Plaza, who is quite talented, seems miscast as the hyper-sexual, and horridly dirty-minded Lenore whose dialogue for most of the entire movie consists of finding new ways to tell De Niro she wants to sleep with him. At first it’s kind of funny, after 30 minutes it’s pretty tiresome and by the end (it’s a nearly two-hour-long film) it’s almost unbearable. The film’s one saving grace is Zoey Deutch, who plays the one honest, pure and sane person in the film. She has a surprisingly smart and non-sexualized character in a film where even the grandpa is a sex symbol.
“Dirty Grandpa” hardly works as a film. It’s obtuse, over-the-top and mostly unfunny. The sad thing is, there were some truly solid moments in the film. If the screenwriting hadn’t tried to be over the top and and had they simply titled it “Grandpa,” this movie could have really been something.
It’s just unfortunate that they tried.
Scott may be reached at [email protected]