Tuesday, January 26, 2016

'Dirty Grandpa' review

Robert De Niro is an enigma. He's undoubtedly one of the greatest actors in cinematic history. Goodfellas, The Godfather Part II, Casino, Once Upon a Time in America, The Deer Hunter, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Heat, Awakenings, The Untouchables, Silver Linings Playbook- the list of classic De Niro flicks goes on and on and on. But De Niro doesn't make the best career choices. He has a tendency to star in almost any movie that comes his way, and sometimes, I think that really hurts him and his legacy. A movie like Dirty Grandpa makes it difficult to take him seriously. You might call me an idiot or a liar, but believe it or not, I was actually mildly excited for Dirty Grandpa. The red band trailer was mildly amusing and the concept of De Niro playing a foul-mouthed geezer in a movie that would put Zac Efron back into the R-rated comedy genre definitely intrigued me. The reviews rolled in late on Thursday night and they were all atrocious. But I didn't quite buy into it. "It couldn't be that bad, right?" I asked myself.

It's that bad. It really is. Dirty Grandpa is truly, unquestionably awful. It's unhinged in its vulgarity, and in doing so, reaches new levels of stupidity in comedic filmmaking. Dirty Grandpa rides for a while off the pedigree of stars Robert De Niro and Zac Efron, but after a while, they're just hurting their reputation in this mess. It's a great concept for a movie- matching a classic Hollywood star with a rising talent in a filthy comedy- and yet, Dirty Grandpa feels like it was written by a 10-year old who only recently discovered the power of the "F"-word. It throws every single raunchy thing it can think of on the screen, but it never once manages to be funny. This film makes the fatal mistake of mistaking crudeness for comedy and because of that, Dirty Grandpa ends up as a poorly structured mess of the movie with forced character development, lackluster pacing and a series of offensive gags that never land. This is the definition of a January movie.

I'll be honest, I don't even know where to start on this one. I guess I should run through the semblance of a plot that this movie has. Jason (Zac Efron) is a soulless cog in the corporate machine. He's a lawyer at his dad (Dermot Mulroney)'s firm, and he is set to marry Meredith (Julianne Hough), who is portrayed as being a controlling crazy person for pretty much the whole movie. But after his grandma's passing, Jason is tasking with taking his grandfather, Dick Kelly (Robert De Niro), to his vacation home in Boca. Jason reluctantly agrees, even though Meredith is freaking out about their upcoming wedding. But from the moment that Jason walks in on his grandfather watching porn and "taking a #3" as Dick puts it, he knows that this won't be a typical trip.

Within moments, Jason realizes that Dick is basically a really horny dude. And he wants to take this road trip so that Jason can be his wingman and allow him to have sex with college girls. That's the basic gist of Dick's idea. Or is it? At some point, the movie tries to convince us that Dick is actually doing all of this to "free" Jason from his repressive relationships, and yet, there's never any development to that. His motivation seems focused on having sex with Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), a very flirty college girl. I think that Dirty Grandapa views itself as an incredibly filthy version of The Graduate, but all of those subplots are completely undercooked and frankly, don't make much sense. Anyways, they party in Daytona, as Jason reconnects with an old college classmate (Zoey Deutch) and realizes that maybe he needs to rethink his life. That's pretty much the whole movie.

Dirty Grandpa could probably get away with a lot more if it was funny. But I think if you described a lot of the gags to someone who hadn't seen this movie, they'd respond more with shock and surprise than with laughter. A movie like this really makes me appreciate someone like Seth Rogen- someone who can take a very dirty concept and come up with a clever and well-paced set of jokes to accompany the filthiness. Rogen's R-rated raunchfests may be filled with their share of drugs, sex and f-words, but there's a degree of ambition to it. Dirty Grandpa is sloppy and nasty just for the sake of being sloppy and nasty. The jokes in this film barely qualify as jokes. For instance, there's a scene where Efron is in prison and asks for a pair of pants. The cop responds: "Alright, the only pants we have are from an orgy gone wrong, so do you want the semen stained ones or the blood stained ones?"

That's something that classifies as a joke in the world of Dirty Grandpa. But the movie doesn't earn the joke. There's nothing funny about a man waking up on the beach with a bunch of swastikas on his head drawn in the shape of penises. Nothing is inherently amusing about an old guy describing 500 different permutations of the word "c--kblock." Hearing about the sexual adventures of Andre the Giant isn't funny. The writer and director of Dirty Grandpa don't understand humor. They have no concept of how a joke builds and pays off. The humor in this film doesn't help the characters, it doesn't come from the situations, it's just forced, cheap garbage. I will say this though- eventually, you'll probably laugh out of sheer disbelief.

But beyond the sheer clumsiness of the film's humor, there's a laziness to the way that the entire plot is set up. There's absolutely no structure to this movie. It flows all over the place. Scenes are repeated. Jokes play again and again. "Serious" character scenes are dropped in every once in a while to advance the dramatic effect of the story. Simply put, nothing works. The characters don't make any sense, the plot is practically non-existent and the fact that the movie is constantly unfunny only adds to the dogpile of junk that this movie has built.

People will easily blame this movie on De Niro or Efron or the surprisingly solid supporting cast. Please don't. There are two people to blame for this movie- John Phillips and Dan Mazer. Phillips' script is awful in every way and Mazer's direction adds nothing to the movie. They've created a movie that scrapes the bottom of the barrel and then keeps digging (this flick barely avoids the dreaded "F" grade). De Niro's legacy will be okay, and Efron will bounce back with Neighbors 2 in a couple of months. Zoey Deutch will break out as a star at some point and there are a few other funny people in this movie who will survive this fiasco. It's just a shame that they didn't get out early.

Leonardo DiCaprio recently said this when discussing his horrific experience making The Revenant: "Pain is temporary, film is forever." In DiCaprio's case, he meant that as a positive- the legacy of The Revenant will live on, no matter how cold he was while making the film. In the case of Dirty Grandpa, that quote backfires. De Niro might keep making great movies and Efron may eventually be a star, but for those of us who suffered through it, we'll always remember Dirty Grandpa.

THE FINAL GRADE:  D-                                            (2.5/10)

Image Credits: Telegraph, Guardian, Screen Rant, Joblo

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