In not exactly the most innovative or interesting attempts at comedy, Robert De Niro’s raunchy, foul-mouthed Dirty Grandpa may not mark the beginning of a new golden age in his career, but it certainly won’t do anything too terrible for it either. After the death of his wife, Dick Kelly (De Niro) tricks his straight-laced lawyer grandson, Jason (Zac Efron) into taking him on a road trip, the purpose of which soon becomes clear as he attempts to have as much sex with young college girls on spring break as possible (at the bequest of his wife on her deathbed, obviously).
Along the way Jason meets an old acquaintance whose commitment to her passions unsettles him, having left his own dreams of being a photographer behind, and causes him to rethink his entire life plan, which includes having doubts about his upcoming marriage to the clear villain of the film, Meredith (Julianne Hough). It’s obvious how much the film wants us to hate her: she is a perfectionist, and worries when her fiancé doesn’t answer the phone in days. Jason’s journey of revelation involves drugs, violence, and nights in jail, all of which understandably put a strain on his relationship with his grandfather. The Dirty Grandpa’s own parallel journey of desire and regret involves a sudden and mutual obsession with student, Lenore (Aubrey Plaza).
There’s nothing remotely exciting or even endearing about the plot, and the film is somehow worse when it tries to shove in apparently compulsory moments about the trials and emotions of the Dirty Grandpa’s fatherhood experience than it is in its long, barely amusing stretches of Jason at a party wasted and naked or Dick flirting obscenely. However some of it is actually kind of funny, like the scenes including Pam (Jason Mantzoukas), the lovable drug-dealing dirtbag with whom our heroes repeatedly cross paths with. Most of it is admittedly bad, yet it is (almost) saved by De Niro’s lively, ever-professional performance and seemingly real investment in the lives and loves of the eternal Dirty Grandpa.
Image: Lee Davy; Flickr.com