The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Dirty Grandpa

In the first half of his career, Robert DeNiro was known primarily for intense dramas - Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas being the three most obvious examples. Then, in 1999, he hit the box office jackpot sending up his own image alongside Billy Crystal in Analyze This. The film opened a new door, and the actor has spent the second half of his career making more comedies. The problem is that DeNiro doesn't exactly have the best taste in comedic material. For every Meet the Parents, there are two Showtimes, and for every The Intern, there are two The Big Weddings. That brings us to the latest – and worst - DeNiro comedy, Dirty Grandpa. I'm not saying the movie is terrible, but I fully expect a terrorist organization to claim responsibility for it any minute now.

Zac Efron plays Jason Kelly, an uptight preppy lawyer who is about to be married to one of the oldest cinematic tropes, a materialistic harpie (Julianne Hough). Shortly before the wedding, Jason's newly widowed, perverted grandfather Dick (DeNiro) tricks him into going on a road trip to Daytona Beach for spring break. Dick, it seems, is eager to get laid now that his wife has passed. Once in Florida, they meet Shadia (Zoey Deutch), a nice young woman from Jason's past, as well as her freaky friend Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), who has a sexual fetish for old men. You can doubtlessly figure out the rest from there.

Dirty Grandpa has a big problem, and it's right there in the title. This is a one-joke movie, where the joke isn't that funny to begin with. Everything is raunchy and dirty, just for the sake of raunchiness and dirtiness. Not even ten minutes into the film, we see Dick sitting in a recliner masturbating. It goes downhill from there. One would be hard-pressed to find a line of dialogue in the sorry screenplay that doesn't reference genitalia, sex acts, or both. Every single scene is built around some kind of vulgarity, whether it's Dick's fondness for sticking his thumb up Jason's butt or the kinky foreplay that Lenore engages in. (It's no coincidence, by the way, that the grandpa's name is “Dick.” Because that's the level of humor here.) Entire sequences are designed to allow for lame sex-related puns, such as a numbskull frat boy referring to Dick as “Viagra Falls.” That's a relatively mild one. We won't get into the really R-rated stuff. The vulgarity in Dirty Grandpa (including an appalling child molestation joke) is so incessant that it becomes downright oppressive.

So what's the difference between this picture and, say, the films of Seth Rogen, which also have lots of sex, drugs, and profanity? That's simple: context. There is nothing wrong with boundary-pushing humor. It's been a cinematic staple for a long time. Many of the best comedies ever made dealt with the same material that Dirty Grandpa does. But director Dan Mazur (Da Ali G Show) doesn't tell a good enough story to justify the non-stop raunchiness. Jason's crisis of conscience is pitifully undeveloped. You know almost immediately how it's going to resolve itself, because it's the exact same character arc that has been used in dozens of other movies about guys engaged to materialistic shrews. Good raunchy comedies – like Rogen and Efron's Neighbors, for example – balance things out with well-developed characters and identifiable situations. Dirty Grandpa just trots out a half-assed plot and then fills it with every conceivable form of lowbrow humor. (Hey, look – Jason sleeps next to his naked grandfather and wakes up with a penis in his face!)

Dirty Grandpa
A reacted sample of the movie's "wit."

It's depressing to watch Robert DeNiro sink to this level. And the really sad part is that he's so game for it all. He's really trying to make this awful material work. His performance consequently comes off like an elderly person attempting to appear cool by talking in hip-hop patois. The immense talents of Aubrey Plaza are also wasted. Her deadpan weirdo routine is hilarious in the midst of strong character-centered comedy like Parks & Recreation. Here, she seems tasked with trying to “save” scenes via improvised creepiness. As funny as Plaza can be, this is simply too much to put on her shoulders.

Dirty Grandpa is a very long 102 minutes. There's little originality on display, unless you think hearing Robert DeNiro make endless variations on profane expressions is hilarious. This is a monumentally unfunny movie, one that drags a legendary actor down to the level of vulgarity typically found in Marlon Wayans comedies or epic disasters like Movie 43.

The silver lining? It would appear that the race for Worst Film of 2016 is already over.

(1/2 out of four)

Dirty Grandpa is rated R for crude sexual content throughout, graphic nudity, and for language and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 42 minutes.

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