De Niro Plays Dirty
We’ve had Billy Bob Thornton as Bad Santa (2003), Cameron Diaz as Bad Teacher (2011), Johnny Knoxville in Bad Grandpa (2013) and now, in the unlikely person of Robert De Niro, we have Dirty Grandpa, a raunch-fueled romp teaming the two-time Oscar winner with hunky heartthrob Zac Efron.
As the title implies, De Niro’s the lascivious and ostensibly lovable old-timer and Efron his straight-arrow grandson, due to be married (to Julianne Hough), but reluctantly talked into accompanying Grandpa to Daytona Beach for spring break.
Along the way, Grandpa convinces Grandson to lighten up, loosen up and, indeed, light it up. Efron, essentially playing straight man, is a good sport throughout, but it’s odd – and a bit dispiriting – to see De Niro playing a role that would once have seemed tailor-made for Rodney Dangerfield in his heyday, or perhaps Ron Jeremy these days.
This is the maiden voyage for screenwriter John Phillips, who’s also credited with the upcoming Bad Santa 2 (which doesn’t bode well for that belated sequel), and the second feature for director Dan Mazer, who merely goes through the motions. It’s rude and crude throughout, and although there are some inspired gags along the way, they’re far outweighed by the groaners.
The actors bring more enthusiasm than the material warrants, with Aubrey Plaza a sexy standout as a comely college party girl bent on bedding Grandpa. Zoey Deutsch plays Efron’s love interest (Hough being relegated to the sidelines almost entirely), Jason Mantzoukis plays Daytona’s everpresent resident drug dealer, and Dermot Mulroney plays Efron’s uptight dad, who eventually (and predictably) chucks his stuffed-shirt attitude after spending a little quality time with Grandpa.
If nothing else – and, indeed, there’s not much else – De Niro manages to spout more profanity in the film’s first hour than in all of Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995) combined. If that’s a distinction, it’s pretty much Dirty Grandpa’s only one. !