Within the first twenty minutes of Dirty Grandpa, almost every synonym for genitalia has been used at least twice. That alone could represent the experience of watching this movie, but the runtime lands at 102 minutes, so there were many more sexual references to be had along this unconventional road trip movie.
Looking at Dan Mazer’s previous work, one could expect the shock value humor walking into the movie, but having a veteran actor as prolific as Robert De Niro in the mix, it’s not a bad assumption to think that there would be some compromises in the humor, which, in the long run, was a wrong assumption. The first scene takes place at a funeral where Zac Efron’s character, Jason Kelly, establishes himself as a straight-edged lawyer as he tells his cousin it’s unacceptable to smoke weed and pour beer on his grandmother’s coffin.
The movie continues with Jason, who’s getting married the next week, forcibly having to drive his grandfather to his house in Boca, Florida. We learn that the grandfather has a dirty mouth and a dirty mind, as he fantasizes, very vocally, about having sex with every woman they pass on their trip. They eventually bump into Jason’s old classmate, along with her stereotypical gay african-american friend, and her incredibly sexual friend played by Aubrey Plaza. Plaza constantly refers to her lady parts and how she wants Robert De Niro on top of her, which is not as funny as it is weird. As the road trip continues, we learn more about Jason and his grandfather, and their relationship with each other.
All the humor relies on pure shock value, which works in some cases, but not in others. Some jokes go on too long, and some take time to explain why it’s funny; other jokes go a tad too far. Robert De Niro is by far the strongest part of the movie. His on point timing got the most laughs out of me. It’s entertaining to hear him talk about sex, especially when nothing is held back in the humor. The casting for him was perfect, but I can’t say the same for the other casting choices. The chemistry between Efron and De Niro didn’t quite feel right, and I think Efron just felt a bit too awkward. Aubrey Plaza, who usually doesn’t play the sex appeal, felt a little awkward as well. This unfortunately flattened many of the jokes, most of which could have been funny otherwise.
I do believe there’s a good movie in here somewhere, but a lot of the jokes fall short, mainly due to the reliance on shock value, and the questionable casting choices of Zac Efron and Aubrey Plaza. The heartfelt moments don’t hit as hard as they can. The casting of Robert De Niro was surprisingly a great choice, as it remains the best part of the movie. Unfortunately, even the greatness of Robert De Niro can’t save the other performances as well as the weak script, which turns a movie with a lot of potential into something mediocre and totally forgettable.
Written by Trevor Howell