In a word, Dirty Grandpa is tasteless. Crass, belligerent and egregious would also suffice. Unnecessary, even.
Robert De Niro – yes, that revered, award-winning Robert De Niro – stars in Dan Mazer’s “comedy” as former Green Beret and recent widower Richard “Dick” Kelly on a mission to get wild in Daytona Beach. Along for the ride is his straight-laced grandson Jason (Zac Efron) who is betrothed to the most uptight of prep queens, Meredith Goldstein (Julianne Hough). In attempts to woo, if you can even call it that, the sweet hippie Shadia (Zoey Deutsch) and the sex-crazed Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), the grandpa/grandson pair weave a tangled web of lies by omission and outright falsehoods. And what would be a trip to perhaps the most outrageous of the 50 states without sex, drugs and a lot of promiscuity? As far as premises go, Dirty Grandpa‘s isn’t terrible, but it fails to be anything dynamic.
The film’s title sequence was bright and a bit twee, giving me a glimmer of hope for what the movie could be. But less than five minutes, two instances of implied sexual abuse of animals and one shameful masturbation scene later, it seemed hope was lost. Even leaning on the cast’s good looks failed at redemption. The gratuitous amount of glistening abs and up close and personal shots of Efron’s backside – usually as he’s returning upright from being bent over – or the warmly lit hair flip and smile sequences featuring Deutch failed to distract me from the film’s chaotic and aggressive try hard feel. In place of actual laughs, Dirty Grandpa drew from the audience gaping jaws as it barreled out insensitivity and expletives for pure shock value.
The film was terribly, almost impressively offensive. With the finesse of a young child handling a machine gun, Dirty Grandpa fired sloppy, rapid-fire shots at minorities and individuals with disabilities like it was racing against some imaginary clock. “Hit as many as you can in an hour and 42 minutes,” it seemed to remind itself. Stabs were taken at the Jewish religion, lesbian women – as Jason was not once, not twice, but at least four times called Dick Kelly’s “lesbian daughter” – gay men, black people – with De Niro saying the N-word twice in an astonishingly humorless karaoke scene – deaf people and individuals who use speech-generating devices. It made light of rape, child molestation and murder. The R-word was used twice. Meredith’s pink Mini Cooper was gendered female and described in four equally awful, mostly vagina-related ways. Faces were used as canvases for Sharpie penis art for the majority of the film’s run.
I do believe in Zac Efron. He has comedic ability (as we saw in what is possibly the best of his popular films, Neighbors) and with a bit of introspection, could align himself on a trajectory that shoots up on a steep vertical incline. Everything could be coming up Efron, but, unfortunately, Dirty Grandpa is a blindingly obvious demerit – that won’t easily be scrubbed off — on his otherwise good record. I’m at a loss trying to decide why not only Efron but the entire cast agreed to this project. Whether their agents are handing them these opportunities or they are actively seeking them out on their own, someone must be stopped.
Derogatory, juvenile and scatological humor aside, the film is slapped together in a rough and rigid edit. Hardly any scenes were cohesively linked, and I often found myself wondering if I just wasn’t paying close enough attention to the flow of the film, as motivations for characters’ actions were practically nonexistent. I didn’t fully get the reasoning behind Dick Kelly’s need to bed Lenore, despite being told repeatedly how badly he wanted to do so. I didn’t know why Jason felt such an immense pull toward Shadia and his former life as an aspiring photographer. Most of the time, I didn’t know why any of the characters were doing what they were doing. Dirty Grandpa was a back-to-back-to-back progression of nonsensical scenes that did little to serve the film’s already airy plot.
Overall, the film lacked wit, humor and empathy in its script, artistry in its edit and uniqueness in its visual aesthetic. Take the cash you would have spent on this film and see literally anything else. You’d do well not to touch Dirty Grandpa with a ten foot pole.