Cast: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Zoey Deutch, Julianne Hough, Dermot Mulroney
Director: Dan Mazer
Writer: John M. Philips
This is so much more than a bad film. For me a bad film is one that fails to offer anything of substance or value. Whether the film is dull, stupid, lazy, distasteful, or just plain awful, the result is the same. It robs you of your time and offers nothing in return. Dirty Grandpa is something altogether worse. While watching it I wasn’t overcome by how bad it was; I was overcome by how ugly it was. This is a crude, vulgar film that appeals itself to the lowest common denominator. It is an aggressively unpleasant film that made me feel unclean as I was watching it. I’ve watched plenty of films that have made me cringe or that have frustrated me with how irredeemably bad they are but it isn’t often that a film actually makes me feel repulsed. In the year since I’ve started this blog this is the closest I’ve ever come to walking out of a film.
Right after his grandmother’s funeral Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) agrees to drive his grandfather Dick (Robert De Niro) to Florida for the sake of a tradition that they shared. The trip is an inconvenience to Jason who only has a week to plan his rehearsal dinner with his fiancé Meredith (Julianne Hough) but agrees to do it for the sake of the close relationship he and his grandfather used to share. The next day he discovers his grandfather to be a foul-mouthed, heavy-drinking, perverted party animal determined to go to Florida to get laid. On their way to Florida they cross paths with Shadia (Zoey Deutch), a former classmate of Jason’s, and Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), a deviant minx who sets her sights on Dick. In an attempt to get his uptight grandson to loosen up Dick insists that they follow the girls to Deytona Beach for Spring Break. Antics ensue.
Dirty Grandpa presents itself as a raunchy comedy that thrives off bad taste and dirty jokes but not once did this film ever give me a reason to laugh. This film is utterly infected with tasteless humour including dick jokes, poop jokes and fart jokes. The type of humour this film opts for is the lowest form of comedy known to man as it actively refuses to put any thought or craft into any of its laughs. It’s basically the cinematic equivalent of a twelve-year-old boy drawing penises in his notebook and making fart noises with his armpit. It depicts its characters finding themselves in awkward, compromising situations that American Pie would call forced. It prides itself on having its despicable characters behave in despicable ways, decreeing it as life being lived to its fullest. Its cheap, tactless jokes even take shots at every target it can, including gay people, black people and disabled people, and does so with an almost remarkable amount of insensitivity and tastelessness. To call this film offensive to any of these people doesn’t go far enough. This film is offensive to humanity.
How is it that the man who has starred in great works of cinema under the direction of Martin Scorsese, Sergio Leone and Brian De Palma agreed to such an affront to film? How could the man who played Vito Corleone, Travis Bickle and Jake La Motta agree to a role that requires him to wank on-screen and take part in what is called ‘a flex-off’? What happened to Robert De Niro? Watching his talent go to waste in this film made me feel very sorry indeed. Not only is this film uncompromisingly unfunny, it is also fundamentally misguided. It attempts to throw in this half-baked moral about how life has to be lived to the fullest as Dick attempts to teach Jason to do what he wants to do and to think for himself. He does this by subjecting him to peer pressure, getting him to humiliate and degrade himself and encouraging him to abandon all of his commitments in order to pursue some girl he’s known for two minutes because they kind of like each other or something. It is exactly as ridiculous and clichéd as it sounds.
Dirty Grandpa is the worst kind of movie. It aspires to be nothing more than trash and delivers nothing less. The audacity this film has to produce this kind of rubbish and then dare to call it entertainment is nothing less than an insult. I don’t know what depressed me more: watching a screen legend debase himself in the crudest possible way, watching a film that was completely void of any redeeming features, or listening to certain members of the audience as they laughed along with every moment of vulgarity and every worthless joke. Somehow there is still an audience for this Happy Madison type of humour that is allowing these films to be made. Dirty Grandpa is an incessantly sickening, ugly, cringeworthy film that was a profound displeasure to watch with every painful second and everybody who worked on it should be deeply ashamed, most of all Mr. De Niro. This brand of comedy cannot die out soon enough.