UK Release Date: 29th January 2016
Runtime: 102 minutes
Director: Dan Mazer
Writer: John Phillips
Starring: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Julianne Hough, Jason Mantzoukas, Zoey Deutch
Synopsis: A sensible young man has his worldview questioned when his bereaved grandfather takes him on a debauched journey to Daytona Beach.
Sometimes there’s something delightful about watching a bad movie. There’s a reason that people flock to special screenings of The Room. Often, a truly bad piece of cinema is almost as captivating as a Hitchcock masterpiece or a proper Spielberg blockbuster. Sometimes, though, a bad movie is a chore so severe and depressing that you’d rather be anywhere else but the cinema. On which note… it’s time to review Dirty Grandpa and the continuing decline of Robert De Niro’s once glittering career.
Following his grandmother’s funeral, Jason (Zac Efron) agrees to take his grandfather Dick (De Niro) on a road trip. Jason’s fiancée Meredith (Julianne Hough) is unhappy, but agrees to let him go as long as he returns before their wedding day. It soon transpires that Dick is out for a hedonistic weekend of sex, sun and more sex, which looks set to comes to fruition when they encounter a trio of college students, including the sexually liberal Lenore (Aubrey Plaza).
It’s tough to know where to begin in unpicking the sheer, unadulterated horror of watching Dirty Grandpa. Robert De Niro has always been a very gifted comic actor, albeit one who fits somewhat bizarrely into the genre. This off-kilter persona found the perfect home in Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy and was actually reasonably entertaining in the widely disliked Fockers trilogy. Dirty Grandpa, though, takes the work of art that is De Niro’s career and draws an enormous dick right in the middle of it.
| “Let’s get in that giant labia you drove up in and get out of here.”
The problems with Dirty Grandpa go far beyond the fact that it isn’t funny. It is so unpleasant and committed to dragging itself through the dirt that it burrows itself into your brain and lays a litter of cockroach eggs. It’s a film that, like a dog on a lamppost, leaves its grotesque stench behind. There are jokes in Dirty Grandpa that reference rape and paedophilia, as well as more than one moment that makes a punchline of De Niro dropping the N-word.
It’s not just De Niro that gets dragged through the dirt here. Zac Efron spends most of the film half-naked and the other half being forced into excruciating moments that are supposed to deepen the film emotionally, but in reality just make it feel even longer than it already does. Julianne Hough fares even worse, being forced into the “uptight wife” role that probably should have died out in the days of old TV sitcoms. In fact, the only person who emerges from Dirty Grandpa unscathed is Aubrey Plaza, who is having way more fun than anyone else in the film and easily ten times as much as anyone watching it.
The most mind-boggling aspect of Dirty Grandpa is that it could have been something much better. The script turned up on the Black List of the best unproduced screenplays in 2011. It’s unclear how much the project was changed since then, but there’s certainly nothing that made it to the screen which would suggest any creative achievement whatsoever.
| “You don’t just die from cancer, Jason.”
It might only be the beginning of February, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s unlikely that there will be a movie as bad as Dirty Grandpa released into cinemas this year. Everyone involved in the film should be thoroughly ashamed at helping something so creatively bankrupt make its way into multiplexes.
Pop or Poop?
It’s incredibly rare that a film as purely terrible and without redeeming features as Dirty Grandpa comes along, and rarer still that it stars a performer as otherwise talented as Robert De Niro. There’s an unrelenting feel of filth and dirt – the cinematic equivalent of bathing in raw sewage for two hours.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.