Review: Dirty Grandpa

Early responses to Dan Mazer's Dirty Grandpa dubbed it not only the worst film of co-lead star Robert De Niro's career, but flippantly, the worst film of anyone's career. We're respectfully disagreeing with Deadline's take and although we would certainly not call this a classic - it fares better than the true lows of De Niro's career like Little Fockers or The Big Wedding. This R-Rated team-up with Zac Efron has some solid laughs at the expense of each respective star's traditional screen persona and a barrage of shameless, gross out humour with about a fifty percent hit rate.

The debut screenplay from John Phillips sees Jason (Efron) an uptight lawyer asked to drive his grandfather Dick (De Niro) to Florida, the day after his grandmother's funeral. This just happens to be during Daytona Spring Break where Dick wants to let loose after forty years of marriage - much to Jason's horror.

Much of Dirty Grandpa's gags lie within its shameless shock tactics derived from De Niro's uncomfortable-to-watch lead turn: from seeing him masturbating, carrying out simulated sex acts with Aubrey Plaza, and delivering toe-curlingly crude lines of dialogue - it's somewhat surreal seeing the usually esteemed De Niro in these positions. The results occasionally hit the spot with the sexually-charged interplay with he and Plaza amusing in its twisted crudeness, whilst there are the odd laughs to be found in the self-consciously crude dialogue - most of it seen when Dick's firing insults at his hen-pecked 'lesbian' Grandson. The humour of Dirty Grandpa essentially rides upon the idea that old people and sex is gross and is subsequently funny - a formula that proves tiring by the film's final stages.

In terms of narrative, Dirty Grandpa does little to stray from the path of the usual R-Rated road-trip/spring-break film as our straight laced protagonist Jason gets swept up in the depravity - despite mounting pressure at home - in this case from his obnoxiously perfect fiancé Meredith (Julianne Hough) and their impending wedding recital. It's a tried and tested formula as seen in the likes of The Hangover and 22 Jump Street and works here, despite not delivering any surprises - it serves as an apt canvas for this crude tale of debauchery to unfold upon - colourfully shot by DoP Eric Alan Edwards.

Efron makes a solid leading man, playing against recent-type as the straight laced lawyer averse to partying and 'cutting loose' who has recently found himself in charge of his morally-dubious Grandfather. Whilst De Niro is given the 'crude dialogue', Phillips seems to find the best use of Efron is getting him to take his clothes off - leading to a semi-nude Macarena scene and flexing competition, not particularly funny, but certainly not visually repellent either. Efron's stand-out comic scene sees him caught naked (again) at the beach - much to the amusement of a small child. It's crude, uncomfortable humour based on misconceptions, but it's very funny. Welcome support from Plaza and Jason Mantzoukas keep things entertaining when the final stages of the narrative veer into mundane conventionality.

Dirty Grandpa is not the travesty it has been dubbed, but it is no classic. With a moderate gag success rate, a likeable turn from Efron and a curiously uncomfortable/occasionally-entertaining performance from De Niro, there are far worse releases than Dirty Grandpa. 

Director: Dan Mazer
Stars: Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Aubrey Plaza
Release: 29th January 2016

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