Dirty Grandpa finds an earnest corporate lawyer being persuaded to drive his grandpa to Florida the day after his grandma’s funeral – and a week before his own wedding.
If the movie’s title, TV spots and online trailers haven’t made it clear, Dirty Grandpa is a loud, crazy, vulgar farce that attempts to mix crudity with heart. That it mostly succeeds is something of a surprise.
At his grandma’s funeral, Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) is persuaded to drive his grandpa, Dick (Robert DeNiro), to Florida – even though he’s getting married to the beautiful, if controlling Meredith (Julianna Hough).
Instead of a quick trip to drop Dick off at his Florida home, Jason finds himself drawn into a series of adventures involving drugs, booze and gorgeous young co-eds – and discovers that Dick is the proverbial dirty old man.
One of the co-eds, Shadia (Zoey Deutsch), turns out to have been Jason’s partner in a photography class in high school and is about to graduate from college and is just doing the spring break thing. The other, Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), is looking for a college professor to shag, completing a trifecta of college student, alumni and professor that she’s set as a goal for her final year of school.
The girls are traveling with a very gay black student called Bradley (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman), who becomes one of Dick’s favorite targets for verbal abuse – the other being (surprise!) Jason.
During their adventures, Jason learns way too much about Dick – including his grandpa’s very particular set of skills – while falling for Shadia.
Supporting characters include a goofy drug dealer named Pam (Jason Mantzoukis), a pair of oddball cops – Reiter (Henry Zebrowski) and Finch (Mo Collins), and a number of classic college douchebags – Cody (Jake Pickering) and Brah (Michael Hudson).
Writer John Phillips (Bad Santa 2) gives DeNiro a lot of crude language to play with – an early riff on c%#k-blocking is very inventive. In fact, a great deal of the wordplay is as ingenious as it is rude.
With the movie’s language being what is, I can’t really quote the big lines, but some of the physical gags (a ‘flex-off,’ virtually every movement Plaza makes, a colorful car chase) are far funnier than they should be.
The only real problem I had with Dirty Grandpa is that it loses steam when it goes for the heart. Somehow, even with decent chemistry between Efron and Deutsch, they don’t quite work. It’s probably because those moments feel shoehorned into the proceedings – in most cases the transitions are just too abrupt.
Fortunately, a final scene manages to payoff both the crude and the heartfelt in a unique and unexpected way. It’s like Phillips and director Dan Mazer (I Give It a Year) were looking for the best way to take the stereotypical Hollywood ending and destroy it.
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Photos courtesy of Lionsgate