Dirty Grandpa is guilty of several effronteries, but one thing you can’t accuse it of is selling you a bill of goods: it’s exactly as bad as advertised. If you saw the trailer, you saw Robert De Niro as a recent widower who gets his grandson (Zac Efron) to drive him to Florida under false pretenses. What follows is an hour and a half of De Niro’s character making crude, homophobic dick jokes while trying to have sex with college girls and ruin his grandson’s impending marriage.
The script comes off like something written for Rodney Dangerfield in the 80s that he turned down because it was too lowbrow. The humour is immature and dated but might still play with a teenaged audience who won’t be depressed by seeing the once-great De Niro reduced to a walking talking viagra. Efron is the uptight straight man who’s playing life safe by joining his father’s law firm and marrying the daughter of another partner. As a young hard working lawyer with a controlling fiancee, it’s hard to imagine where he finds the time to sculpt the incredibly muscular physique that the film takes every opportunity to display. It only takes one game of flip cup to turn Efron’s Jason from a corporate drone to a naked crack smoker. Obviously this isn’t the only Daytona Spring Break debauchery his grandfather gets him into. Jason finds himself in jail (twice), in a flex-off contest, and in a gang fight.
After over an hour of wall-to-wall of childish obnoxious behaviour from De Niro’s character, the obligatory emotional beats attempted in the third act are even more eye-rolling than they are in your typical comedy that tries to shoehorn some heart into the end. At least the supporting characters provide a few chuckles along the way, particularly Jason Manzoukas (The League, How Did This Get Made? podcast) as a fun loving drug dealer. Aubrey Plaza is wasted and solely there for De Niro to lear at (but don’t worry, she’s totally into him too), while Zoey Deutch and Julianne Hough aren’t given much to do either as the hippie-ish love interest and the overbearing fiancée respectively. Everyone is a caricature that we’ve seen in other lame comedies, De Niro and Efron’s star power is the only thing preventing Dirty Grandpa from being National Lampoon’s Grandpa Does Spring Break (released in their straight-to-video era obviously).
Thanks to last month’s joyless Joy, this is only the second worst grandfather we’ve seen De Niro play recently. At least he has some redeeming qualities in this one. Just when Jason is convinced he’s had enough of his dirty Grandpa, Grandpa wins him back by hacking the slideshow at his wedding and showing everyone pictures of Jason passed out in Daytona beach with a bottle up his ass. This is Jason’s “oh my god, grandpa was right all along” moment, which you can call a spoiler if you want but if you’ve made it this far in the review I’m just going to assume you’re not someone who wasn’t still planning on seeing Dirty Grandpa for its potential plot twists.
Every attempt at humour is made by trying to offend, disgust, and shock you, but it’s not enough to distract from the fact that this just isn’t a good movie, but least it’s retroactively improved this scene from Neighbours.