It would take one almighty piece of cinematic garbage to tarnish the treasured, glorious career of the venerable performer Robert De Niro. A man who has perfected his craft to a point where you could stake a healthy argument for him being the very finest actor of all time. But Dan Mazer’s Dirty Grandpa makes you question everything you ever loved about this wonderful man. It’s that bad.
De Niro plays Dick Kelly, who, in the wake of his wife’s death, manages to persuade his grandson, and fledging lawyer Jason (Zac Efron) to drive him back home. With Jason’s wedding to Meredith (Julianne Hough) just a mere matter of days away, the youngster anticipates a swift trip – so is surprised when he collects his grandpa, only to find him watching porn and divulging in what he likes to call, a “number three”. It seems Dick has other intentions for their trip, and is incensed on getting laid to a young college chick, to finally live a life he feels he’s been devoid of for decades. When they meet Shadia (Zoey Deutch) and her adventurous friends Lenore (Aubrey Plaza) it seems that Dick’s farfetched ambition could well become a reality, though what they hadn’t anticipated, was that Jason too may be tempted into playing away from home.
Mazer, who rose to prominence as co-writer on Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat and Bruno endeavours on the big screen, has again remained true to his style, and implemented overtly offensive material to provoke a reaction, and to test the boundaries of the comedy genre. The difference is, however, is this material is inane, there’s no value or point to it. Borat and Bruno thrived in the notion of satire, with socio-political undercurrents which enriched the material at hand. This is just crass frivolity. Meanwhile, the title character of Dick is so badly crafted, given so many one-liners and gags relating to modern, relevant issues, with pop culture remarks that are simply not in line with the role at all.
What transpires is a film that is awkward and embarrassing to sit through, as you feel as though De Niro is your own grandfather, and it becomes unbearable at times to see him act so vulgar. Had it been funny, any such vulgarity would be welcomed, but to be frank, it’s not comical in the slightest. The character of Jason is placed to represent the viewer, he finds his grandpa to be as disgusting and absurd as anybody, and he channels us in that regard, showing that the film is in on the joke. But it doesn’t make amends for this tragic piece of cinema.