I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
Sadly, neither of my grandfathers are alive anymore. But if they were still around and we took a road trip together? It would look nothing like DIRTY GRANDPA.
Instead of flex-offs at a frat douche-littered beach and playing each other’s wingman, it would have consisted of stories about World War II, John Wayne films, farm life and how they met my grandmothers. So, it’s a far cry from what we are looking at here with DIRTY GRANDPA, a movie that is borderline comedy at best and cringe-worthy at worst.
When the film isn’t undermining one joke in the rush to the next, it has a plot that follows a recent widower (Robert De Niro) who convinces his straitlaced, lawyer grandson (Zac Efron) to accompany him on a road trip to Florida. It’s a tradition he shared with his dearly departed — going on this very trip every year — and he’s not going to let something as little as her death stop him from having a good time.
From there, the story is shamelessly abused as an excuse for the two actors to commit all sorts of debauchery, including but not limited to drinking, drugging and partying themselves stupid.
DIRTY GRANDPA comes to us from director Dan Mazer, who writes for Sacha Baron Cohen (BORAT, BRUNO) and has helmed episodes of DA ALI G SHOW. Some of the jokes, penned by John Phillips (upcoming BAD SANTA 2), manage to produce a few light chuckles and smirks, especially when the family’s Cousin Nick (Adam Pally) comes into the picture at the beginning. Unfortunately, the genuine laughs are widely scattered and poorly mixed with the simplistic, crass gags we can expect from a January release.
Viewers may want to proceed with caution, as the film contains some of the most revolting things you’re likely to see in a movie this year. Whether it’s catching your grandpa in his alone time or seeing a sexpot (Aubrey Plaza) twerk her way into his heart, the film earns its title. The last, stilted scene of the film also won’t do you any favors, ending DIRTY GRANDPA with a sex scene that is far more awkward than titillating.
As amusing as it could have been to see De Niro hamming it up to the sky and Efron stripping down and losing his cool during a bad drug trip, the film can’t find a consistent groove. The filmmakers never find the right pace between the shock comedy and failed attempts to create genuinely touching moments.
By the end, you may have occasionally laughed, but DIRTY GRANDPA is nothing more than an exercise in wink and nudge boorishness that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
DIRTY GRANDPA opens Thursday in participating theaters, and everywhere Friday.
Our interview with Adam Pally, who gives us his best De Niro impression:
Previously published on DentonRC.com