Film Review: 'Dirty Grandpa'
Opened: 25 January 2016 (UK)
Cast: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Zoey Deutch, Julianne Hough, Dermot Mulroney
Director: Dan Mazer
Producers: Bill Block, Jason Barrett, Barry Josephson, Michael Simkin
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the movies the spectre of the ‘lovable’ dirty old man has been resurrected for this crass, shallow and soulless comedy. A film dedicated the exploits of Dick Kelly (De Niro) as he relentlessly pursues casual sex with young girls immediately after the death of his apparently beloved wife. This pursuit comes at great expense to his grandson Jason (Efron) whom he manipulates into being his chaperone. It turns out later that Grandpa was doing it all for Jason’s good… and to get his end away of course!
Though the film is filled with some genuinely funny moments they are all forced set ups that make the The Hangover trilogy look sophisticated. Disparately strung together by clichés, bigoted archetypes and an inevitable conclusion, the fourth wall never really goes up. It’s really a series of sketches featuring that guy from Bad Neighbors and him from Meet The Fockers. Bobby De Niro can be forgiven for going on a pension pot rampage as many stars of a certain age do (have you noticed he is very busy at the moment!), but Zac Efron ‘you are better than this, we’ve all seen the evidence (We are Your Friends, The Lucky One and the aforementioned Bad Neighbors). Maybe he just wanted to make a movie with Bobby, and you can’t argue with that.
The word bigoted is not to be used lightly, and I do not here! Grandpa Kelly verbally abuses the movie’s only (black) gay character, who is later saved by the old man from… wait for it… black gang bangers. And Hollywood wonders why black actors (hell, the entire black population of the USA) are disenchanted with their stories in film.
While it is understandable that writers, directors and indeed producers want to tell modern relevant stories this movie takes things too far in it’s commentary on old fashioned values, particularly marriage. More than any of the gags about genitalia or having sex with college girls, this degrading of traditional values will no doubt feel like an attack to many people. Admittedly it is an easy plot set up to have Grandma just passed away and Grandpa (with the approval of his wife before she passes) looking to get fresh with girls his grandson’s age. This is a sad, reprehensible message that revels in the absence of honour to someone we have loved and lost forever. It will be a grim day when this represents how we feel about each other.
Lots of laughs but less bad grandpa and more sad grandpa.