Film Review: Dirty Grandpa (MA15+) (USA, 2016)

Best known for co-writing on Sasha Baron Cohen projects (Borat, Ali G), Dan Mazer’s 2013 directorial debut I Give It A Year was a crowd-pleasing, fairly underrated romantic comedy, that brought together a stellar cast and showed Mazer as a Director to watch in the commercial sphere. Fast forward three years and Mazer’s follow up film, Dirty Grandpa, sadly does not live up to his potential.

The film stars Robert De Niro as the titular character, Richard “Dick” Kelly, grandfather to Jason Kelly (Zac Efron), who tricks his grandson into taking him to Daytona Beach, Florida, after his wife passes. Jason, meanwhile, is due to wed the controlling Meredith Goldstein (Julianne Hough), in a week, and what is proposed as a night away ends up becoming something akin to the plot of The Hangover. Except unlike that film, you have to sit through the train wreck as it unfolds.

En route to Daytona, we meet Shadia (Zoey Deutch) and Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), the former who proves a crush for Jason and the latter who REALLY wants to “fuck a Professor”. And it just so happens that De Niro just claimed to be one. How convenient. And so the scene is set for an incredibly predictable series of events.

At its heart, Dirty Grandpa is a movie with little original to offer, bar the brief satisfaction of seeing veteran actor De Niro playing such an over-the-top, horny and foul mouthed character. But you can experience that in the trailer – which, to its credit, made the film look like it might be better than its result. And to its credit, there are a few laughs – De Niro does deliver some great lines, and even seems to be enjoying himself at some of the most offensive moments. I think I could even sense a bit of ad libbing here and there.

Meanwhile, the brief scenes with Cousin Nick (Adam Pally, The Mindy Project) are the most enjoyable in the film and Jason Mantzoukas brings us a couple of funny moments as the “small business owner” who most definitely deals drugs. Though the same joke is told every time he walks into a scene, which gets old real fast – something which could be said for the whole film. It’s the same few gags used over and over again.

Beyond these few laughs are one-dimensional characters, whose decisions rarely make sense, as well as a film which sutters from its edit. There are some appalling cuts, showcasing continuity issues and poor dubbing. Then there are the minor special effects – like digitally increasing the size of the crowd – which looks less like a multi-million dollar film and more like the backdrop from the original Daytona USA racing game. Post-production feels rushed and it’s way too obvious. And don’t get me started on the painfully corny and non-sensical ending.

Dirty Grandpa would have worked just as well and gotten just as many laughs if De Niro had yelled a barrage of profanities at the camera for a hundred minutes. At least then it could go under the veil of being “art house”. Sadly, behind what could have and should have been a fun movie at the very least, is a poorly made, predictable and hard-to-love film filled with repetitive gags and no satisfying punch lines.

Review Score: ONE STAR (OUT OF FIVE)

Dirty Grandpa is in cinemas from today.