Nobody should go into a film expecting the worst: cinema is a treat to be savoured and people that take pleasure in going to a film just to tear it in bits are not getting the best out of this treat. However some films leave you so bewildered, so dazed, so repelled and so shocked by their terrible content that you cannot help but ask serious questions about their making. Sadly the biggest offenders can be found within the comedy genre (which, next to horror, really is the most subjective of all genres), with films like Movie 43, Project X, Fat Slags and Meet The Spartans serving as notable examples. And now we have Dirty Grandpa, entirely unrelated to Jackass spin-off Bad Grandpa – which actually had more genuine laughs and weight to it.
Critics and certain audiences have bemoaned that star Robert De Niro, a landmark name in cinema, should really re-assess his chosen projects. However, with all he has accomplished there is nothing wrong with the Raging Bull star having fun. Sadly in this case it seems like the cast might have been the only ones having fun?
Dirty Grandpa sees young lawyer Jason (Zac Efron) re-connect with his grandfather Dick (Robert De Niro), after Dick’s wife of 40 years recently passes. Jason uneasily agrees to drive his grandfather to Florida but this road trip soon becomes an attempt for Dick to right wrongs, enjoy life and remind his grandson who he is. At the heart of this film, at least somewhere along the line, there seems to be a message of it never being too late to live and being true to your self, but this message is skewed by an endless stream of unfunny and disconcerting filth.
Gross out can be hilarious when it is done correctly but Dirty Grandpa, despite the undeniable commitment of its two leads (who both deserve better), misses the mark practically all of the time. The comedy serves no purpose at times, just being an attempt to swamp the script with bodily fluids and sex organs. The only laughs to be found are those had at just why you happen to be sitting through a film that is so putrid. From baby’s hands up arses and De Niro whapping his tadger out on Efron’s pillow, this film throws various shock tactics at the wall, with potentially offensive gags about underage sex, paedophilia and homophobia, all in an attempt to shock. It shocks all right, but in all the wrong ways.
Nobody wants to write a pure hatchet job and this reviewer is being very restrained out of respect for the committed turns by the cast, but Dirty Grandpa is certainly dirty but also thoroughly charmless. The whole narrative, despite the apparent aforementioned earlier ideological intentions, comes to be about Dick getting his end away and Mazer’s film basically gives us a granddad/grandson bromance that feels really uncomfortable at times. Aside from Jason and Dick, there are some tiring characters with nymphomaniac college kid Lenore (Aubrey Plaza) (basically a vagina on legs according to the script), predictable love interest Shadia (Zoey Deutch) and the buffoon druggie Pam (Jason Mantzoukas) – inexplicably loved by cops and drunk kids alike (god knows why).
All in all, some people may wring some guilty (very guilty) laughs from Dirty Grandpa but all involved are better than this. The film features some really uncomfortable comedy writing, which every now and then even the cast seem to struggle reading with any believability (see a draggingly unfunny sequence in a restaurant where even the cast seem to look confused with their supposedly hilarious lines that make no sense). It is embarrassing at times to sit through and you cannot help but feel as though some of the film’s truly vile moments will always stay with you, much like the cinematic answer to a stalker or a demon.
Review by Jack Bottomley
Dirty Grandpa is available on Blu-ray and DVD on 23 May 2016 from Lionsgate