FILM REVIEW – DIRTY GRANDPA. With Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Mantzoukas. Written by John Phillips. Directed by Dan Mazer. Rated R for crude sexual content throughout, graphic nudity, and for language and drug use. 102 minutes.
This may be hard for younger moviegoers to believe, but once upon a time–a very long time ago–people would get excited when there was a new movie starring Robert De Niro. Hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, if not the best, his performances in movies ranging from “Taxi Driver” to “Raging Bull” were cinematic landmarks. Now the best we can hope for is that he simply doesn’t embarrass himself as he cashes another paycheck.
With DIRTY GRANDPA, De Niro hits rock bottom. He plays Dick Kelly, a 72-year-old veteran who has just buried his beloved wife but insists on leaving for what had been their traditional Florida vacation the next day. He asks that his uptight grandson Jason (Zac Efron), who is in the midst of planning his wedding, accompany him.
When Jason goes to pick him up, he walks in on Grandpa masturbating to porn. It doesn’t get any better. This is a formulaic road trip movie in which the repressed character is liberated by the obnoxious, self-absorbed one. This will involve drugs, booze, fights, lots of public embarrassment, as well as explicit–and ultimately boring–talk about the sex Dick intends to have, particularly with a college student named Lenore (Aubrey Plaza).
Along the way we get racist stereotypes, gay stereotypes, antisemitic stereotypes (Jason’s fiancee is Jewish), and jokes that suggest using heroin, methamphetamines, and crack cocaine is a laugh riot. This is a movie that thinks it’s funny that Jason’s equally uptight father (Dermot Mulroney) is arguing with the police without realizing that he has several penises drawn on his face.
To add insult to injury we get several “serious” moments, where Dick and Jason reconcile. The only one to emerge from this unscathed–because she’s the sympathetic character with whom Jason connects–is Zoey Deutsch, as a college senior who was, improbably, a classmate of his. (Since he’s a lawyer, he’s at least three or four years post-college having had to go to law school.)
The distributor of this cinematic crime is Lionsgate. Aware of just how awful the film is and yet wanting to fleece the public nonetheless, they demanded that film critics attending an advance screening agree to an embargo. That’s not unusual except for this: public showings begin Thursday night. The embargo for print reviews (although not online reviews) is Saturday, which just happens to be lowest circulation paper of the week.
So spread the word. The worst movie of 2016 has just been released. It’s called “Dirty Grandpa.”•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.