The 400-Word Review: Dirty Grandpa
By Sean Collier
January 25, 2016
There seems to be an addiction plaguing Hollywood comedies. All movies seek to raise the stakes for their characters, but a surprising number of recent efforts have done this in exactly one way: The dude is getting married.
Maybe the main dude, maybe the side dude. The important thing is that otherwise negligible hijinks are made more perilous and/or embarrassing because the dude in question is getting married next week, bro! (A minor variation has a slightly older dude about to become a father, incidentally.)
Such was the case just seven days ago, with Ride Along 2, and such is the case this weekend with Dirty Grandpa, the dreadfully named comedy from frequent Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator Dan Mazer. The prenuptial dude in question is Jason Kelly (Zac Efron), a straitlaced attorney; his betrothed is Meredith (Julianne Hough), a micromanaging bridezilla. Wedding plans have been interrupted by the sudden death of Jason's grandmother; when her widower, Dick (Robert De Niro), requests that Jason give him a ride back home ... well, Jason can't say no to grandpa.
As it turns out, though, grandpa isn't interested in grieving and reminiscing; he's out for drugs and sex. He had always been faithful, Dick explains, and his dear departed wife gave him explicit instructions to cut loose after his passing. Dick drags Jason to Daytona Beach for a weekend of bad behavior, complicated when the boys run into an old college crush of Jason's.
But he's getting married next week, bro!
Sadly, the unoriginality isn't the biggest problem with Dirty Grandpa. That would be its constant barrage of unfunny, potentially offensive jokes. (I only say potentially because the film is so desperate for laughs that any viewer will quickly realize that the film's jabs and slurs are born out of desperation, not hatred.) First-time screenwriter John Phillips apes Seth MacFarlane in hurling bits at the screen at a breakneck pace, knowing the vast majority will miss wide, in hopes that something - anything - produces the occasional chuckle.
To be fair, some do, particularly in the hands of supporting players Aubrey Plaza, Jason Mantzoukas and Adam Pally. But that's hardly enough to make up for the bile spewed at gays, minorities, women and pretty much anyone else you can name. If Dirty Grandpa is remembered at all, it'll be remembered as the movie where De Niro used the n-word. What were they thinking?
My Rating: 3/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark