Review: 'Dirty Grandpa' Is Uneven Addition to the Frat Comedy

Rachel LaBonte ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Robert De Niro and Zac Efron in Dirty Grandpa. Photo Credit: Lionsgate.
On paper, it sounds like a really interesting casting decision: Robert De Niro and Zac Efron playing grandfather and grandson? Um, yes, please. But is the film they’ve been cast in the right vehicle to bring them together? That’s up for debate. This new addition to the frat boy comedy genre is both exactly what one would expect from it and not at all what one would expect. It is simultaneously refreshing and annoying.
Dirty Grandpa tells the story of Jason (Efron), a put-together, straight-laced lawyer who is days away from marrying his uptight fiancé. However, before that, he must take his newly widowed grandfather Dick (De Niro) on a trip down to Florida. What Jason assumes to be a simple grandfather/grandson bonding trip quickly turns into spring break gone wild as he learns Dick has quite the crude side. Together, they find themselves in the middle of drug-fueled shenanigans that threaten Jason’s upcoming nuptials and his relationship with his grandfather.
Comedies like these typically have paper thin plots, and while Dirty Grandpa’s is no Godfather, it tells a more meaningful story than most frat boy movies. The film is at its strongest when it’s kept between Jason and Dick. Jason’s prying into his grandfather’s past is an interesting (if uneven) subplot. The bond between grandfather and grandson is one that is often never explored in media, but it’s never looked quite like this.
Zac Efron and Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa. Photo Credit: Lionsgate.
One thing is for certain: Dirty Grandpa is not for the easily offended. That can be assumed just from knowing what it’s about, but the movie takes on a no-holds-barred approach when it comes to certain topics. There are jokes about whether or not it is appropriate to say the N-word, as well a particularly cringeworthy one about mental retardation. While there are jokes that elicit genuine laughs, the film’s humor definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s relentless; one gets the feeling director Dan Mazer wants to heighten the shock value with every joke told. And in some instances, he’s successful.
That’s not to say Dirty Grandpa is a bad film. There are jokes that stick their landings and draw real laughs. The dynamic between Jason and Dick is heartwarming, even if Dick cracks one too many jokes about Jason’s masculinity (or lack thereof). The supporting cast holds up well against Efron and De Niro, especially Aubrey Plaza as Lenore, a college student determined to sleep with Dick. She has some pretty ridiculous moments opposite De Niro, and she executes them all hilariously.
Even those unimpressed by the lewd humor that defines this film will find themselves touched by Jason and Dick’s relationship. Seeing them both come to new realizations about each other is a joy to see, and one that truly made the film. Dirty Grandpa has its difficult moments, but as a whole it’s fairly enjoyable.
Overall grade: B-
Watch the Trailer Below:
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