Movie review: Limp jokes and story sink ‘Dirty Grandpa’
–When you see Robert De Niro is in a movie, it conjures a certain idea. De Niro is a two-time Oscar winner who has done some memorable roles throughout a decorated career in acting.
But it’s easy to forget about that when seeing his latest film, “Dirty Grandpa,” which is a movie and a role unlike anything he’s done in the past. And that’s not a compliment.
January is typically a rough time for movies. There’s a lot of rough and very few diamonds that come out. That’s certainly the case with “Dirty Grandpa,” which aims at being crass fun but instead is an over-the-top mess.
The film centers on Jason Kelly (Zac Efron), who is a week away from getting married. His somewhat demanding, often controlling fiancé Meredith (Juliana Hough) has everything planned and micro-managed. At work, that role falls to his father, David (Dermot Mulroney). Jason is a junior lawyer at his father’s firm, and seems to follow the lead set by his father and fiancé in all aspects of his life.
When his grandmother dies, Jason’s grandfather, Dick (De Niro), a retired Army man, asks his grandson to take him on a short road trip to Florida. Jason’s father and fiancé protest, but he eventually gives in, believing it will be a short over night trip to play some golf and see some old friends.
Instead, it’s clear that Dick has something else in mind. While on the road, they encounter Jason’s former photography classmate — Shadia (Zoey Deutch) — and her overly aggressive friend — Lenore (Aubrey Plaza) — and everything changes.
Dick leads Jason on a wild Spring Break trip instead, getting him into tough spots on the road and with his family at home. Along the way Jason learns a lot about who his grandpa really is and starts to ask hard questions about his life.
On the surface this looks like it could be an interesting fish-out-of-water kind of comedy. A straight-laced young man finds out about his grandfather’s unexpected wild side. And there are moments in the movie that are funny and kind of work.
But a lot of it is overly crude, dark and uncomfortable. De Niro’s character says and does a lot of rude and insensitive things. And he gets his grandson into a lot of wild situations, ending him up in jail more than once. And these kind of films have worked in the past. Efron, in fact, is good in another comedy film like this called “Neighbors.”
But here the action just feels wrong. The jokes get repetitive, the characters are all poorly developed and the story takes some gross and some confusing turns. It wasn’t at all what I expected, and again, that’s not a compliment.
De Niro is a great actor but I didn’t really feel his performance here. Efron, too, is capable of much more. The party sequences get boring and the whole film feels overly long though it’s just 102 minutes. It takes a long time to get to its inevitable conclusion, and it doesn’t entertain much along the way.
The tacked on closing sequence is also too much. Hopefully these guys had fun making the movie, because it’s not much fun watching it.
“Dirty Grandpa” has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for crude sexual content throughout, graphic nudity, and for language and drug use. Enter with caution.
One star out of four.