Despite popular belief, Dirty Grandpa is funny. For the second time in a row, director Dan Mazer has put together a star studded comedy that on release has driven critics mad whilst audiences have found them great fun.
One could study in great depth the trajectory of Robert De Niro’s career (Mean Streets, The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, Once Upon A Time in America, Goodfellas, Awakenings, Casino, Heat, Analyze This, Meet The Parents, Hide and Seek, Stardust, Machete, Red Lights, Last Vegas, Joy…) and many top tier actors are quite frank about why they pick certain projects or scripts (it is their jobs after all and if the pay check at the end is what they are after, good luck to them!) but this writer doesn’t think you need to think any less or more of De Niro taking this role. After all at 72, his roles are of course going to change and if he decides to a few lighthearted and silly comedies in amongst the top award winning drama, then why the hell not – like his character Dick in Dirty Grandpa, he just wants to have a good time.
Then there is Zac Efron, who has the potential to be one of the biggest Hollywood stars going – give him a decade or two and he is bound to enter his own McConaissance. Looking back his journey has brought him to a very specific place in his career (High School Musical, Hairspray, Me and Orson Welles, 17 Again, The Paperboy, Parkland, Bad Neighbours, We Are Your Friends), he is currently also having a good time much like Matthew McConaughey did during his rom-com heyday. So with Efron working on film like Bad Neighbours 2, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Baywatch, it’s not surprising that Dirty Grandpa came along (and the chance to work with De Niro must have been enough to whet his appetite).
Back to where we started, Dirty Grandpa is funny. Yes, it’s vulgar, ridiculous, dirty, ludicrous and offensive, but it does it with a good heart and never wants to actually tick anyone off. It’s also a lot of fun to see both Efron and De Niro play characters that are opposites to what they’d usually play and against one another – their chemistry is fantastic and makes the film a joy to watch.
Dick’s (De Niro) wife has just passed away and so he persuades his grandson, Jason (Efron) to take him on a road trip to Daytona Beach during Spring Break. He accepts, but on the grounds that he will be back in time for his wedding rehearsal to his beloved; the uptight and snobby Meredith (a great performance from Julianne Hough). Jason’s father, David (Dermot Mulroney) is all for his marriage as both Meredith and Jason work at his law firm and so really this relationship is seen more as a business transaction. But on the way, Jason and Dick run into Shadia (Zoey Deutch), Lenore (a hysterical and physical performance from Aubrey Plaza) and Bradley (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman). Shadia and Jason knew each other in another life, when they were studying photographer at college before David made Jason’s life decisions. The chemistry between them is instant and Jason does all he can to fight it. Dick, meanwhile is too busy wanting to find someone to have sex with and sets his sights on Lenore. He makes a plea to Jason that he hasn’t had sex in decades, never cheated on his wife and nursed her through her illness until the end, but now the end has happened, he wants to move on and quickly.
Dirty Grandpa isn’t the hardest movie to follow and whilst many of the jokes are repeated (dumb police officers, drug selling beach shop owner, Efron related nudity and Dick’s urgent need to fuck), it’s a lighthearted comedy that is likely to get a chuckle out of even the hardest of hearts. The performances, particularly from Plaza and Hough are simply brilliant – there is an old school physical comedy element that is rarely respected today.
All in all, Dirty Grandpa has a solid message at it’s heart – something about going after what you want and not being told what you should do by those around you. A good Saturday night film with mates and a few beers.