When Dirty Grandpa debuted in cinemas this past weekend, it yielded reviews that mostly awarded it one star. This was a gold star sticker, to be precise, the kind that you were awarded whenever you did well in kindergarten. Uproxx.com bluntly called it “A Dumb Comedy” in the headline of its review (this headline too deserves one gold star sticker), and The Herald Sun proclaimed that Dirty Grandpa saw “Robert De Niro’s career slide hit rock bottom”, while The Guardian’s caveat was to “Avoid At All Costs”.
Audiences ride through a minefield of insensitive jokes, where the film’s straight-man Zac Efron obliges the obscene ideas of his newly-widowed grandfather De Niro, as the former Vietnam War undercover operative comes to terms with his third-quarter life crisis, in ludicrous fashion of course.
The widespread critiquing of the film as “feminist” is quite unfair, as the hormone-fuelled fun is also peppered with a generous serving of handsome men and their tight bodies. Watching Dirty Grandpa feels the same as hanging out with a new friend who is armed with all the best comebacks.
Julianne Hough plays Efron’s villainous fiancée, whose excellent performance rallies the audience to get behind Efron and root for him to ditch her. Throughout the film, director Dan Mazer was obviously meticulous in instructing Efron and De Niro to portray their characters, Jason and Dick Kelly, in specific ways for each different scene, so as to maximise the hilarity of each pubescent joke. Efron and De Niro switch it up in every scene, showcasing the immense range of the present and past Hollywood heartthrobs, while giving Jason and Dick unique identities that endear the cinema-goer to them both.
Saturated with F-words and N-words, Dirty Grandpa reveals a different side of the same De Niro that we all know; the one of Godfather and Raging Bull acclaim, as well as the silver screen veteran whom High School Musical’s Efron has matured into. Zoey Deutch and Aubrey Plaza too deserve due credit for their compelling portrayals of Miss Right and the village bicycle through their intricately-nuanced acting. If you fancy seeing De Niro rapping Ice Cube lyrics while dressed in a bowling shirt, or Efron smoking crack while dancing practically naked, then catch Dirty Grandpa as an appetiser before a night of partying with your buddies.
With a title like that, no one expected Dirty Grandpa to achieve world peace or cure cancer. There will definitely be a sizeable portion of the population who will enjoy Dirty Grandpa for its wit and insanity, while there will be others who will detest this film unless they get off their high horses.
Directed by Dan Mazer
Running time: 102 minutes
Rating: 3.5/5 stars