"A film not without its laughs, just one that could have been so much more"
Ragingly rude, ridiculously rotten but above all else his heart in the right place – Robert De Niro is a Dirty Grandpa. From the comedic mind of Da Ali G Show (2000) and I Give it a Year (2013) director Dan Mazer teams up with writer John Phillips to give us a tale of one perverted former army General who has become a partying Grandpa along with his almost married, uptight lawyer of a grandson Jason (Zac Efron). The clue is in the title here; what you see is what you get. They even named said Dirty Grandpa, Dick… In fact, it wouldn’t be so surprising if this film turned into the latest drinking game the word is uttered so often.
Jason Kelly has a lot on his plate; his Grandma just passed away, his fiancé is constantly nagging him about his upcoming marriage and now his grieving Grandfather wants his Grandson to accompany him on a trip he and his late wife used to take every year. Hesitant, but secretly wanting to escape his napkin colour deciding wife-to-be Meredith (Julianne Hough) for a second, Jason agrees to take a quiet drive with his Grandpa. However, when he walks in on Dick taking a ‘number 3’ (use your imagination) things get a little out of control.
Ending up in Florida for Spring Break with an old classmate wasn’t exactly what the straight-laced, sensible lawyer had in mind. Despite its many comedic moments, this isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. When it comes to such teenage classics as American Pie, The Hangover and indeed any other film that endeavors to push the boundaries, Dirty Grandpa disappointingly doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. Coming from Mazer the mastermind behind much of Sacha Baron Cohen’s body of work, one can only expect the boundaries to be well and truly bulldozed yet any cleverness seems to be missing.
Hovering dangerously between shockingly amusing and just plain wrong; most of the laugh-out-loud moments are almost a defensive mechanism to deal with the awkwardness the likes of Gervais’s David Brent mastered in The Office. Being a quick hour-and-a-half in amongst the near 3 hour features circling during award season: it almost feels a little forced at times. The characters, plot, and inevitable ending are outlined within the first 15 minutes and leaves nothing for us to figure out on our own. Yet the selected target audience will probably be grateful for such an experience.
After an hour of wading through distasteful jokes, comments laced with racism and a not so subtle dig at ISIS, there is a meaningful message hidden within what seems a never ending nightmare for Jason. Albeit, a nightmare that he wakes up from and with the help of his Grandpa manages to see to the light and get out of the rut he is well and truly stuck in.
High School Musical fans will relish in the fact they get to see Efron sing again, not to mention his toned torso and one handed press-ups. As usual De Niro shines as a sexually-charged widower, although this isn’t anything Travis Bickle or James Conway couldn’t handle. It shall be interesting to see how John Phillips will handle the newly announced Bad Santa 2 after this. A film not without its laughs, it could have been so much more.