REVIEW: Dirty Grandpa

2 02 2016

Dirty GrandpaDirty Grandpa” plays out like a loosely-strung series of sketches for two characters. Picture a “Best of” special for someone like The Culps on “Saturday Night Live,” just not really all that great and tied together by something that loosely resembles a plot.

The film follows the escapades of the titular ribald senior, Robert DeNiro’s newly widowed Dick Kelly, as he ventures down to his retirement home in Florida. To do this, he enlists a slightly estranged grandson, Zac Efron’s neatly coiffed corporate lawyer Jason. Their dynamic stays essentially the same throughout. Dick curses and offends; Jason reacts somewhere on a register of annoyance to shock.

Our preexisting notions of each actor are key to the response their characters generate, too. Efron, now well-minted as a Hollywood matinee idol, swaggers about as if he walked out of a Vineyard Vines catalogue. Many a joke is made at the expense of his rigid adherence to country club attire, often times calling his masculinity into question. But unlike “Neighbors,” which used Efron’s looks as a springboard into questions of male homoeroticism, “Dirty Grandpa” mostly just piles on the homophobia.

As for how Robert DeNiro’s past iconography factors into the film … well, every ridiculous laugh he gets comes with a simultaneous pang of sadness knowing that this is the man who gave us generation-defining performances in films like “Raging Bull.” At least he commits to the role in all its ridiculousness, never phoning it in or hinting that he is somehow above the material. (Even though he is.) “Dirty Grandpa” would make for truly miserable viewing if DeNiro did not seem to enjoy it on some strange level.

Zac Efron in Dirty Grandpa

Academy Award nominee Dan Mazer (yes, he was nominated for his work on the “Borat” script back in 2006) orchestrates the madness with some degree of aplomb. He and writer John M. Phillips deliver some big laughs, crude and sophomoric though they are. In the span of a few minutes, “Dirty Grandpa” cycles through vulgar jokes about the Holocaust, child molestation and prison rape. It’s that kind of movie, take it or leave it. Check your dignity at the door, and you might find sporadic diversion.

At the very least, fans of Adam Pally from Hulu’s “The Mindy Project” and Aubrey Plaza from NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” will enjoy the two comedians let loose in the R-rated format. They both play characters quite similar to the ones they played on their respective sitcoms, so even just getting to watch them go wild in “Dirty Grandpa” made the experience somewhat fun. B-2stars

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