[email protected]$K! C%&K! SH*T! P%SSY! No, I haven’t suddenly come down with an acute case of Tourette’s Syndrome, but rather I was performing a test. While reading any of those “dirty words”, did you suddenly find yourself spontaneously bursting into raucous bouts of laughter? If your answer is no – which it should be for most well-adjusted adults – then I’m afraid that you’re probably going to find about 80% of the punchlines in new R-rated comedy Dirty Grandpa to be as enjoyable as Robert De Niro violently jamming his thumb up your butt.
Which, incidentally, is actually a continuous running gag in the film, with the recipient of said thumb being Zac Efron (who now most emphatically cannot consider High School Musical to be the most embarrassing entry on his filmography any longer).
Dirty Grandpa sees Efron play Jason, the uptight soon-to-be-married-to-an-even-more-uptight-and-bossy-wife grandson of De Niro’s Dick Kelly, an ex-military vet who has just buried his late wife and asks his grandson to drive him down to Florida for the weekend, so that he can still celebrate the annual holiday he always took with his wife before she passed. This will also give the once-close grandpa and grandson some much needed bonding time.
Except it’s all a big ploy for the 15-year celibate Dick – pun not intended – to make up for lost carnal time, beginning with humping anything with a pulse during Spring Break in Daytona Beach. Along the way he also tries to get his now bored-stiff lawyer grandson to reignite the passion he once had for life, and perhaps even ditch his flavourless, overbearing fiance and instead fall back in love with old free-spirit college classmate Shadia – played by Zoey Deutch – who they just so happen to run into on their roadtrip.
Oh and Dick will also be making terribly homophobic jokes and blaming it on being from a different time, or even just dropping “N” words to be cool. And because all of that, on top of the aforementioned sodomizing digit, somehow still doesn’t fill screenwriter John M. Phillips’ physical “comedy” quota here, we also get treated to De Niro gleefully masturbating in front of Efron, as well as flopping his flaccid man-sausage onto his sleeping grandson’s forehead. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. It appears that this Raging Bull is taking a raging bullsh*t on his career.
All of this is made even sadder by the fact that De Niro actually brings some gusto to this farcical role instead of sleepwalking through it as he’s done for so many of his recent straight-to-the-bargain bin movie contributions. And despite the depravities he has to endure, Efron is at least game to the challenge, playing the straight man well to his foul mouthed, hard drinking grandpa. He also gets the opportunity to show off his chiselled, dreamed-up-in-an-action-figure-lab physique, which should at least help him to earn back some of the fans he may lose with this cinematic poop joke.
Funny girl Aubrey Plaza, whose entire character is essentially “slutty college girl says rude words with a straight face as she tries to bone Robert De Niro”, does occasionally make the gags work, but that’s mostly just through her trademark deadpan delivery than anything the script cooks up. And what it cooks up is often straight nonsensical as random drug dealers and possibly the worst movie cops ever just flit in and out for bursts of random potty-mouthed skits. The movie tries to go for some third act family values depth, but by that stage you’ve waded through so much muck that any thematic sincerity is pretty hard to take seriously.
After first dipping into the Hollywood directing game with risqué 2013 rom-com I Give It a Year (which I actually enjoyed), sophomore feature film director Dan Mazer – who unsurprisingly is the co-creator/writer of the controversial Ali G, Borat and Bruno – has returned more to his roots here. But whereas his collaborative efforts with Sacha Baron Cohen were actually often some form of sociopolitical commentary wrapped up in low-brow gross-out humour, this is just low-brow gross-out humour wrapped up in more low-brow gross-out humour wrapped up in soiled underwear.
But admittedly I would be disingenuous if I were to not admit that there are indeed SOME laughs to be found in this stinky opus. It’s just that most of them are of the painfully awkward “Oh, how in the tarnished name of Robert De Niro’s two Oscar did they think that was a good idea?!” variety. Overall though, Dirty Grandpa is simply just not good at all. It’s a slapdash collection of college frat pranks and sloppy fart noises masquerading as a movie, and that it has one of the greatest actors Hollywood has ever seen pulling those pranks and making those noises makes it feel like the joke is on us this time. Also, the penis. The penis is on us too. On our foreheads.
Last Updated: January 26, 2016