Directed by Dan Mazer. Produced by Bill Block, Jason Barrett, Barry Josephson, and Michael Simkin. Written by John Philips. Release date: January 22, 2016.
Somewhere along the line – 2014, to be specific – Hollywood figured out the best way to use Zac Efron: as a good-looking guy in raunchy comedies who has no qualms about embarrasing himself. Neighbors made us take notice of him in this type of role, and after a year set aside to start filming more of these films, 2016 will see him in not one, not two, but three raunchy-looking comedies (one of which happens to be Neighbors 2). The first of these is Dirty Grandpa, which sees Efron play a young lawyer getting married to a controlling woman, Meredith (Julianne Hough). After his grandmother dies, he’s tasked with driving his grandfather, Richard (Robert De Niro), to a vacation spot, but winds up actually heading down to Florida for all sorts of spring break-type “fun” – even though his wedding is a week away and all sorts of various planning needs to be done.
The idea here is that De Niro will get the two into all sorts of situations, Efron will try not to participate but will anyway, and they’ll bond as a result – with Efron maybe realizing that being a lawyer may or may not be what he should be doing with his life. Each character is given a romantic interest in Florida: Efron is paired with Zoey Deutch, a former photography classmate, while De Niro gets Aubrey Plaza, whose entire purpose in the film is to be an object of desire – and she knows it.
You can see where Dirty Grandpa is going from the outset – or the trailer – but you’re not here for the story anyway, are you? You want jokes, preferably of the sexual, vulgar, and offensive variety. Well, in that regard, Dirty Grandpa delivers. There are some comedies that don’t even feel like they’re trying, but this isn’t one of those. It packs several attempts at jokes into every minute of its running time. I’m not convinced that even close to a majority of them hit, but I appreciate the effort, and there are enough jokes here that you’ll probably have a decent enough time.
That is, if you’re only watching it to laugh, as the film is a bit of a mess outside of that. Many of its scenes feel like they could have been edited together in any order. We go through the same sequence of events twice, as if alternative scenes were spliced in just to ensure that the running time made feature length. It’s predictable to the point that you can watch the trailer and figure out basically the entire plot. Certain supporting characters are more fun than the protagonists. Even the jokes don’t have a ton of variety to them; shock wears off after we see and hear the same thing over and over again.
Dirty Grandpa is pretty much what you’d expect from a movie with that title.
Still, Dirty Grandpa does keep its comedic momentum flowing, even if the plot stutters, zips forward, stops, takes a step back, and then continues forward again. It manages to top itself more often than once, and since it starts very vulgar and offensive, that’s no small feat. And since the cast members look like they’re having a good time, that helps us have a good time, too. While there are no great performances, nobody looks bored – except perhaps Danny Glover in a cameo – and everyone has good comedic timing. This isn’t a dull slog to sit through, and its energy is one of the reasons why.
Otherwise? There’s basically nothing to Dirty Grandpa. Robert De Niro gets to ruminate on getting older and having fun, which felt less like his character and more like De Niro explaining his career choices over the last decade and a half. There’s also a certain meta-ness for the audience if you remember the De Niro-themed party Efron and co. had in Neighbors. Unfortunately, Efron’s character’s growth essentially comes from him realizing things we could tell from the trailer – lifelong lessons like “follow your dreams.” It doesn’t matter. This is a movie that isn’t concerned about anything beyond getting you to laugh and cringe, and it’s decent at doing so – especially the latter.
No great success, but not an overwhelming failure, either, Dirty Grandpa is pretty much what you’d expect from a movie with that title. It’s a vulgar, crude, offensive, and filled with jokes that aim to make you both laugh and cringe. It works to an extent. The plot is almost inconsequential, it gets repetitive and feels like it could have been edited together in many different orders – there’s no forward plot progression a lot of the time – and the character growth and lessons learned are about as basic as they come. But is it funny? I guess so. It’s better than a lot of January-released comedies, and I didn’t hate it.
Bottom Line: Moderately funny but with nothing else going for it, Dirty Grandpa lives up to what you should expect given its title.
Recommendation: If you like raunchy sex comedies, see Dirty Grandpa. If you want more out of your movies than a bunch of crude, offensive jokes, skip it.[rating=2]