Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
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