Movie review: The awful, ugly Dirty Grandpa is the comedy equivalent of torture porn

January 29, 2016

Dirty Grandpa

from Indy Week

Dirty Grandpa is easily the worst movie of the new year so far, and it will surely be a strong contender at the end of the year, too. In fact, in the dizzying moments after being bludgeoned by this miserable specimen, I was convinced it’s among the worst movies ever made. That’s a rare moment in a film lover’s life, and something to savor, in a weird way.

Zac Efron headlines, ostensibly, as uptight law-school graduate Jason Kelly, who’s preparing to wed his even more uptight fiancée (Julianne Hough, suffering through a standard-issue bridezilla role). Plans are interrupted, however, when Jason agrees to drive his recently widowed grandfather down to Florida.

That’s our dirty grandpa, played by Robert De Niro, who clearly does not, in the twilight of his career, give a single fuck anymore. The very first scene features the two-time Oscar winner fully nude, masturbating to cable-TV porn in his recliner. This sets the tone rather perfectly.

Things only get more embarrassing for De Niro. Director Dan Mazer obviously subscribes to the filthier-equals-funnier theory of comedy, but he has no actual jokes to work with in a script by first-timer John Phillips. Dirty Grandpa isn’t a story, it’s a premise—a decidedly lame one, at that. Jason and his dirty grandpa go to spring break in Florida. That’s it.

In lieu of any real situational or character-driven comedy, the filmmakers provide De Niro and Efron with an unrelenting torrent of gross dialogue and sight gags. Incapable of generating actual comedy, the filmmakers go for shock and revulsion, over and over and over. It’s the comedy equivalent of torture porn.

Poor Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) shows up as a hard-partying college girl with a geriatric fetish. You’d think that setup would pay off with a joke or two, but it doesn’t. In fact, there’s no payoff about 100 times in a row. Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy) plays Jason’s love interest, to zero effect, but she at least has the dignity to look embarrassed by it all.

Traditionally, the upside of really bad movies is that they’re fun to make fun of. Not so much with this one. There’s an ugliness to Dirty Grandpa that runs deep, beneath the rape “jokes” and the swastika plot point and the creepy obsession with female anatomical specifics. The story feels like it was thought up by a gang of emotionally stunted sixth graders who heard a story once about spring break.

But hey, at least Robert De Niro picked up a paycheck. That’s something.

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