By Laurie Coker
The title of veteran actor Robert De Niro’s latest film, Dirty Grandpa, makes me think of a tasteless Adam Sandler film – not good. Still, I love De Niro, in spite of his terrible choices in some roles like the Focker films and Anger Management. His main body of work speaks to his awesome talent. He’s good in everything, even terrible films, but I still had to drag myself the twenty-four miles to the South Austin screening, through nasty traffic. Speaking of nasty, Dirty Grandpa, directed by Dan Mazer and written by John Phillips, stretches far over any line of good taste, including every cliché, raunchy, Spring Break situation possible and does so unabashedly.
After the death of his wife, Dick Kelly (De Niro) wants to sow his oats and party likes he’s 21. His uptight lawyer grandson, Jason Kelly (Zac Efron), on the cusp of marrying his boss’s over-bearing daughter (Juliana Hough), joins him, reluctantly, on an impromptu trip to Daytona Beach during spring break. Jason and Dick end up involved in a series of adventures and mishaps that reunite Jason with an old girlfriend (Zoey Duetch) and her wild, slutty best friend (Aubrey Plaza), who is eagerly seeking sex partners – particularly an old one. Between unruly frat parties, raucous bar bouts, the pair goes from one ludicrous situation to another.
Like every other spring break film, Dirty Grandpa demonstrates just how over-the-top things can’t get, but throw in a man in his seventies looking to get laid and his super straight-laced grandson and things can get really ugly. There are stereotypical and cartoon versions of college co-eds, daffy drug dealers, crazy corrupt cops, gross girls gone wild and disgustingly dumb jocks. Unapologetically, Phillips’ script rips through every crotch, vomit, drug, sex, drinking and dirty joke possible. On a side note, Kudos, to him and Mazer for Efron completely naked, except for a hornet G-string and at one point just his hand. HOT! No cougar here, however, maybe a saber-tooth, but then it never hurts to admire a quality piece of art and Efron’s body qualifies. He winds up splayed out naked and covered in sand on a hot beach and then embroiled in what only appears to be vulgar relations with a young boy. Racist and gay digs abound, as do inappropriate sexual relations and drug encounters, all framed by Dick’s deliriously dirty mouth. Oh and by the way, seventy-two year old, De Niro is no slouch in the fit department.
De Niro is adorable in the same way that Efron is. By that, I refer to their natural charm and charisma. Yes, it’s revolting what comes out of Dick’s mouth, but no less disgusting than the way Plaza plays loose-legged Lenore – she only gets nearly naked, but the filth that is the banter between Dick and Lenore certainly defines Dirty Grandpa. I would like to see this same cast in a clean, fresher comedy, because even the most minor players provide entertainment. Ultimately, except for the rapport of the cast, little is redeeming about Dirty Grandpa. It will have its place with audiences that like this type of humor, and I didn’t find it a total wash. I am placing a C- in my grade book. Perhaps too generous, but I am sticking to it.