Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Crude Sexual Content throughout, Graphic Nudity, and for Language and Drug Use
Directed by: Dan Mazer
Written by: John M. Phillips
Starring: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch, Aubrey Plaza, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Hough & Jason Mantzoukas
Of all 2016’s films thus far, DIRTY GRANDPA has been amongst the most critically panned. However, it seems that most complaints derive around the movie relying on profanity, shock value, and extremely crude humor. You know, three things you’d pretty much expect from an R-rated comedy called DIRTY GRANDPA. While I’ll admit that I had relatively low expectations walking into this movie, I walked away somewhat satisfied as DIRTY GRANDPA is a one-and-done brainless trashy romp. I wouldn’t say that the film is particularly good, but I did laugh and was interested to see where things were heading (even though the plot is very predictable). DIRTY GRANDPA is the sort of gross-out comedy that you just have to be the mood for.
Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) is a young straight-laced lawyer who’s about to get married. His grandma has recently passed away and the tragic loss has left his grandpa Dick (Robert De Niro) with a burning desire to visit their vacation home. With two days to spare and thoughts of quick golf games with his elderly relative, Jason arrives at Dick’s home…only to discover that his grandfather is actually starved for sex, alcohol, and drugs. Reluctantly stuck in Daytona Beach during Spring Break, Jason begins to learn strange life lessons from his dirty old grandfather and loosens up. Lots of booze, boobs, and illegal acts ensue…all while Jason’s fiancé (Julianne Hough) keeps harassing him over the phone and college party girl Lenore (Aubrey Plaza) has her eye on Dick.
From that plot description, you pretty much know what you’re getting into with DIRTY GRANDPA. It’s sort of like a non-gimmicky and somewhat less funny version of BAD GRANDPA with less of an age gap. The big scene-stealer is Academy Award winner Robert De Niro as profanity-spewing Dick. I’ve never seen De Niro blurt out this much filthy, disgusting, and cringe-worthy dialogue…and keep in mind how many times the actor has played hardened gangsters in the past. That’s not to say that this is entirely a bad thing, even though many critics took it that way, because it was so absurd to behold that it might make DIRTY GRANDPA worth a slight recommendation by itself. Every time De Niro’s Dick was on the screen, I was having fun (yes, I realize what that sounds like, but immaturity seems appropriate for this review).
On the less interesting side of things is Zac Efron as Jason. His story arc is pretty much laid out in front of our eyes from the opening ten minutes. Exposition dialogue is sloppily spouted out from various characters about his background, his relationships, and the ensuing wedding plans. You pretty much know what will happen on his journey of self-discovery and cutting loose through booze, sex, and drugs. It’s not as if Efron is particularly terrible, because he’s actually a serviceable straight man to De Niro’s crazy Dick, but the sheer predictability of the character’s story arc makes the 102-minute running time occasionally crawl by.
Most of the side characters are nothing special, with two big exceptions. Shadia (Zoey Deutch) is a bland love-interest for Jason, while Bradley (Jeffrey Bower-Chapman) is a one-dimensional gay stereotype. Efforts are made to flesh both of these characters out, but only reach slight levels of success. Jake Picking and Michael Hudson play bland jock antagonists, while controlling fiancé Meredith (Julianne Hough) never really gets much time to shine. Aubrey Plaza is clearly having a blast as Lenore and chews nearly as much scenery as De Niro, with plenty of innuendos and sexual puns. A big highlight comes in Jason Mantzoukas’ Florida drug dealer character, who becomes a recurring face and got big laughs out of me.
At the end of the day, DIRTY GRANDPA is exactly what you’d expect a dirty R-rated comedy called DIRTY GRANDPA to be. It’s full of creatively profane dialogue, sex jokes, drug-fuelled running gags, and a rather predictable story. That’s not to say it’s horrible, because I was amused throughout most of the running time. This is a guilty pleasure that belongs alongside something like SAVING SILVERMAN or BUBBLE BOY. You know it’s technically not a “good” movie, but it still entertains you regardless. At the end of the day, trashy comedies like DIRTY GRANDPA have their place in the cinematic world and are definitely mood movies. If you go in expecting to completely hate this movie, then you’ll likely despise its very existence. If the trailer got a few good laughs out of you and you decide to ignore the scathing reviews, you’ll probably be entertained.