*** (out of 5)
January 22, 2016
Robert De Niro as DICK KELLY
Zac Efron as JASON KELLY
Zoey Deutch as SHADIA
Aubrey Plaza as LENORE
Jason Mantzoukas as TAN PAM
Dermot Mulroney as DAVID KELLY
Julianne Hough as MEREDITH
Directed by: Dan Mazer
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
When January rolls around, the cinemas are filled with a weird of critically-acclaimed award films and low-brow genre films that don’t have even the smallest chance of winning any award. By the time I’m seeing the movies in the mid-January slate, I’m done with award films, having been watching them for the past three months in order to vote in various groups.
So, when I start seeing the January movies (or at least the ones the studio has the stones to show us critics ahead of time), I actually am primed to enjoy them a little more. By this time of the year, I’m tired of significant movies showing people’s impossible struggles over adversity. I’m ready for raunchy comedies and substandard horror flicks.
In this context, a movie like “Dirty Grandpa” appeals to me more than it would were it released in a later timeframe. I know that “Dirty Grandpa” has nothing in it that is redeeming, honorable or respectable. It’s a low-brow comedy that is going for cheap laughs. And while cheap laughs are worth what you pay for them, I actually enjoy some of them quite a bit.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m a pig. It’s okay to be a pig now and again.
More over, “Dirty Grandpa” has done nothing to hide its true nature. No one should be blindsided by this movie’s premise or delivery. It’s all out there in the trailers and the posters. You shouldn’t be expecting a tender characters study between grandson and grandfather. Instead, you should be expecting a ribald comedy in which Robert De Niro sticks his junk against Zac Efron’s face while they’re sleeping.
About a month ago, “Sisters” opened as counter-programming against “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Though it was dwarfed by the latter in the box office, “Sisters” did well enough, and it went for similar low-brow laughs. At its heart, “Sisters” was an all-night house party movie with the twist of being about women in their 40s.
Similarly, “Dirty Grandpa” is a spring break road trip movie with a guy who cashes a social security check every month. The story follows Jason (Zac Efron), an uptight lawyer, whose recently-widowed grandfather Dick (Robert De Niro) convinces him to drive him to Florida on the eve of his weeding. Soon, we learn Dick’s real plan is to show Jason a good time in order to stop him from marrying his stuck-up, snobby fiancée (Julianne Hough).
Not everything in this movie is funny, and the set-up takes a bit too long to play out. However, there are some moments that made me laugh, I’ll admit. I enjoyed seeing De Niro play a different version of the foul-mouthed hothead (as opposed to the oodles of gangsters he’s played over the years). I know there are plenty of people out there bemoaning De Niro’s acting choices lately, but I have respect for the guy still having fun in front of the camera and taking some bolder choices. After all, last year he was quite good as the congenial older gentleman in Nancy Myers’ “The Intern.” (In fact, I’d love to see a mash-up edit between that movie and this one.)
Efron is fine in his role, but he’s essentially playing the straight man to De Niro’s hijinks. I’m still not convinced the guy can headline a movie, and he does best surrounded by better performers (which is why “We Are Your Friends” was such a bust last year). To that extent, the supporting cast of “Dirty Grandpa” is quite good. Aubrey Plaza has a chance to be more of a sex symbol than the surly hipster she is usually typecast as, and Jason Mantzoukas essentially plays a version of his Raffi character from “The League” to provide additional comic release.
It’s not fine art. Heck, I’m reluctant to call it art at all. But I will admit that “Dirty Grandpa” made me chuckle a few times.