Dirty Grandpa (2016)
Directed by Dan Mazer
For years, the name of actor Robert De Niro held a lot of respect. His name on the multiplex meant you were in for a great movie—“The Godfather,” “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “Goodfellas”—but lately, not as much. But even in the last subpar decade, with “Little Fockers” and “The Family” and “Grudge Match,” De Niro never stooped as low as he does in his latest, “Dirty Grandpa.” It’s a cinematic embarrassment that may stand as the lowest point in the once-distinguished actor’s two-time Oscar-winning career. He’s lost all dignity. You’ll never see Robert De Niro the same again.
As second-generation lawyer Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) prepares for his wedding to his witchy girlfriend Meredith (Julianne Hough) in less than a week, he attends the funeral of his beloved grandmother. At the funeral, his grandpa Dick (De Niro) suggests that Jason drive them down to his summer home in Florida for a few days to grieve. But when Jason agrees, he sees that grandpa’s intentions weren’t so innocent. In fact, all he wants to do is have sex again. So the day after his wife’s funeral, Dick drags Jason along to Daytona Beach as he hits up college parties, following a young co-ed (Aubrey Plaza) and her more innocent friend Shadia (Zoey Deutch), who (surprise!) Jason begins to fall for.
First-time screenwriter John Phillips has a hell of a time trying to craft anything even remotely close to an original comedy script. With a pen and three hours, I could have written something funnier. That says more about the amateurity and immaturity of the script than it does about any talent I might have. Expletives are used freely and frequently as a verbal crutch when Phillips couldn’t be bothered to come up with real jokes. With its party scenes, jail scenes, and sex scenes, “Dirty Grandpa” has everything you’d expect, except much worse. What little plot is there is predictable, but after a while you don’t care enough to try to predict it anyway.
If Phillips doesn’t care at all about the story, he cares even less about the characters. Meredith is a one-dimensional bitch of a caricature. And Hough isn’t a good enough actress to do anything about it. At least Zac Efron makes his horribly-developed character sort of likable. And for the first time since “Hairspray,” Efron breaks out the pipes for an entertaining 2-minute karaoke scene. If only the other 100 minutes could have been as fun. Aubrey Plaza, playing a heightened version of what by now I have to assume is herself, draws a few additional laughs. But none of that matters because they’re overshadowed by the enormous heap of dog sh*t that is Robert De Niro’s role. He makes “Dirty Grandpa” live up to its title with his unapologetically disgusting performance. It’s almost enough to erase the illustrious past that precedes him. Here’s my plea to Hollywood screenwriters out there: please write Robert De Niro one last good role to retire on. Something where we don’t have to see him masturbate.
“Dirty Grandpa” could end up the worst movie of 2016, but it’s already one of the worst comedies of the decade. I know star power can still work miracles in Hollyood, but please believe me when I tell you that “Dirty Grandpa” is absolutely no good.