Maybe the only good thing about Dirty Grandpa is that you get exactly what you expect. No tricks, no gimmicks, all tomfoolery. Two crude remarks for every moment of possible sincerity. It’s okay for movies like this to be off-putting so long as there is a deeper meaning behind all of the meanness. This one doesn’t bother to do that, and the road trip comedy becomes less and less interested in making us laugh and more fixated on where it’s going to plug in the next dick joke or sexual innuendo. Some might feel offended by Dirty Grandpa’s crude heart. I’m just more irritated that it doesn’t even have one.
The once eclectic Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) now works for his Dad’s law firm. He dresses like a Ken Doll fraternity member and has all the personality of the Mattel toy. While at his Grandmother’s funeral, he’s asked by his Grandpa Dick (Robert De Niro) to drive him from Georgia to Florida, continuing the traditional trip he made with his deceased wife. Jason’s wedding is only a week away, and his meticulous and controlling fiancée Meredith (Julianne Hough) has his man card in her back pocket, reminding him that he better be back in time for the ceremony. I still don’t get why male writers, in this case John Phillips, script the same female characters over and over again. The wedding obsessed materialist, the unapologetically horny hussy (Aubrey Plaza), and the wishywashy artsy girl (Zoey Deutch). It’s as if Phillips has never met a real woman before.
Dirty Grandpa might be the worst movie of De Niro’s career, and it continues his bizarre choice of roles in films destined to make their way into the dollar bin someday. Maybe he was sick of playing so serious, tired of dark drama. I’m afraid today’s youth won’t know him for the titanic thespian that is. Efron isn’t up to snuff here either. I’ve been surprised by just how funny he can be, and while he gets to go crazy in the film’s middle, he has to play scared straight during the rest of the feature. The role is just stiff. That’s not really the fault of the two leads though. Phillips’ script is truly awful and is not helped any by the idle direction of Dan Mazer. After his often charming yet flawed I Give It a Year in 2013, Mazer has stepped back leaps and bounds.
All this movie wants to do is offend the audience, and to its credit it accomplishes that feat right off the bat. To flip double birds to anyone dumb enough to fork over money to see it (a small army I unfortunately and willingly enlisted in.) With only a handful of scenes that get any level of laughter, a fluffy side story about male privilege and happiness found through women, and enough bathroom humor to back up the pipes, the snide Dirty Grandpa seems to proudly accept its place on the bottom rung of the comedy ladder. When a movie jokes about defecating in Queen Latifah’s mouth, you know you’re in for cinematic torture. There’s a reason this one got dumped into theaters during the bare January market. It’s that bad.
“I’m gonna throw up.”
Rating: 0.5 out of 5