AN EMPIRE OF WORDS

Dirty Grandpa (2016)

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Dirty Grandpa seems to be a universally loathed film. From reviews to podcasts to word of mouth, it seemed as though Dirty Grandpa did not have an audience anywhere. Considering the success of Efron’s Bad Neighbours and Robert De Niro, you know being Robert De Niro it surely can’t be that bad. Right? Surely!

Efron and De Niro are collaborating with Dan Mazer, who is known for writing the Sasha Baron Cohen films like The Dictator, Borat and Brüno. Dan Mazer has tried his hand at directing before with I Give It A Year, which seemed to be something he wanted to replicate with Dirty Grandpa, thematically.

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Robert De Niro doesn’t strike me as a comic actor in anyway, as I have always associated him with blood-pumping crime thrillers, like Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale and Casino. The only comedic thing I have seen De Niro star is the ‘Meet The’ franchise and even in that he stars as a stern-faced authoritative figure. Efron on the other hand has expanded into comic acting with his most recent one being Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.

I’m willing to let bygones be bygones when it comes to actors branching out, as I despise typecasting, but not when it comes to Dirty Grandpa. What seems to be a familiar stance on all ‘racy’ comic films is the inclusion of crass and vulgar comedy somewhere in it, but not have all the comedy as crass and vulgar. Unfortunately Dirty Grandpa seems to have not have gotten that memo as within 15 minutes, we see Dick (De Niro) pleasuring himself quite openly as his grandson, Jason (Efron) walks in.

I don’t need to see that.

Jason is tasked with driving his Grandpa Dick down to Boca Raton in Florida, which was the vacation home for Dick and his late wife. Jason is cast much like the Robert De Niro character of Jack Byrnes in Meet the Parents in the sense that he is very uptight and seems to be very work-orientated. During their drive, it becomes apparent that Jason is very ‘under the thumb’ with his fiancée Meredith (Julianne Hough) and Dick expresses dissatisfaction in his relationship with Meredith on numerous occasions.

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As they drive down to Boca Raton, Jason with a whiskey in his hand as his grandpa seems to enjoy the idea of drink driving, Dick recites that they used to be closer when Jason was younger and begins to pluck away at his character. The once photographer-hopeful now turned corporate lawyer storyline begins to tread all-too familiar ground.

What comes as a surprise is that Dick is not really in bereavement, but rather in excitement as they bump into three college graduates. One was Jason’s classmate in photography, Shadia (Zoey Deutch) and the other being Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), who wants to sleep with Dick. (to complete a college trifecta or something along those lines). Unfortunately Plaza and Deutch don’t become memorable characters, other than the need for love interests in this film.

Over the course of its 100-minute runtime, I think I laughed roughly twice. And that wasn’t at any of the main characters, but rather Jason Mantzoukas’ Tan Pam, a Floridian drug dealer who is responsible for getting Jason and Dick in some sticky situations.

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As I mentioned, majority of the comedy used throughout the film is off a crass or vulgar nature. It is often throwaway and quite frankly, not very memorable. When I watch a comedy, I expect to be able to laugh at something in the days after, but nothing of this sort came from Dirty Grandpa.

It feels as though Dan Mazer tried to save the film with this trickling of the story regarding Dick caring for Jason’s future and expressing that he should be following his dreams, not being a corporate lawyer for his father. But by the point Mazer introduced this, the film was too far-gone with the ‘comedy’.

I watched this film thinking surely it can’t be that bad considering all the less-than-positive reviews, but alas, I cannot argue in its favour. The film is just awful. The story doesn’t really work at all considering what transpires in the 100 minute runtime and just fails to land any comedic laughs, aside from the two delivered by Mantzoukas, but even those weren’t memorable. Dirty Grandpa offers nothing, but crass and vulgar comedy situated in the all too familiar spring break setting and I just cannot recommend Dirty Grandpa at all.

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Author: Nathan Harris

Currently studying Film & Television studies and Media Writing at Derby University. Hopefully wanting to become a film critic/journalist.

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