To help out his Grandpa Dick Kelly (Robert De Niro), his grandson Jason (Zac Efron) agrees to drive him to Florida. But it turns out Dick wants to hit spring break and wants Jason to live a little before he gets married to Meredith (Julianne Hough). What follows is a drink and debauchery fuelled ride that reveals what Dick is really like as a person, while Jason learns some important home-truths about his own life along the way.
Director Dan Mazer has decent comedy pedigree behind him having co-written the likes of Ali G, Borat and Bruno in the past. He tries hard in Dirty Grandpa but John Phillips script is so weak his efforts go largely unnoticed.
Robert De Niro has made all manner of films in his decorated career so it’s not uncommon to see him try his hand at gross-out comedy. Even in below-par fodder, De Niro is usually watchable and this is certainly the case here. Dick Kelly is not an endearing character but you give him more leeway because it’s De Niro behind the wheel. I’d hope he goes back to making more decent fare in the future (as he has done recently with the likes of Joy, American Hustle, Grudge Match and Last Vegas) but with De Niro you just don’t know.
It’s hard to see why Zac Efron went down this route but his career seems to have landed in a tough spot of late. His diversity of roles was something evident in his early career choices post-High School Musical but recently he’s wasting his talents on mid-level comedies that don’t leave a mark. He dutifully obliges here with numerous shirtless scenes for his fans and he has a good dynamic with De Niro, but his character is wet and poorly written.
Whilst there is a lot wrong, there are also some good laughs here. Jason Mantzoukas steals the film as a local drug dealer and is frequently the best thing in Dirty Grandpa. Aubrey Plaza does a great job too – this time as a promiscuous college girl who loves older men. But Julianne Hough and Dermot Mulroney are utterly wasted in clichéd supporting turns and deserved better handling. Zoey Deutch is sadly quite bland and completely forgettable as the love interest.
Dirty Grandpa is an odd comedy. There are laughs to be had – some even belly-laughs – with De Niro and Efron making a good central paring. But the story is weak and held together by slight gags and gross-out laughs. Whilst those certainly have a place in Hollywood, it’s not unreasonable to expect more from a film that draws the talents of De Niro and Efron. Hopefully both make better choices moving forward.
Cast: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Mantzoukas, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Hough Director: Dan Mazer Writer: John Phillips Released By: Lionsgate Certificate: 15 Duration: 102 mins Release Date: 30th May 2016