(USA, 102 min.)
Dir. Dan Mazer, Writ. John Phillips
Starring: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Mantzoukas, Julianne Hough, Dermot Mulroney
It’s so freezing this winter that the old folks are getting a little stiff! The tabloids have yet to tell us if Robert De Niro needs the little blue pill to bring the heat, but the veteran actor sure seems excited in his latest film Dirty Grandpa. Dirty Grandpa takes the hijinks of Last Vegas and amps it up a notch as De Niro plays horny old man Dick Kelly who decides to head south when his wife dies and leaves him single for the first time in decades. When Dick hits spring break, Dirty Grandpa parties like it’s 1965.
Every man needs a wingman though, so Dick recruits his uptight grandson Jason (Zac Efron) to drive him to Tampa. Jason is days away from a marriage to a fiancée (Julianne Hough) who has him by the balls and tied up in coral-coloured neckties. He needs the release just as much as his dirty grandpa does.
The old hound dog teaches the young buck some new tricks as Dick puts smooth moves on two co-eds that he and Jason encounter en route to Tampa. Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), a twentysomething on the hunt for silver foxes, returns Dick’s interest with a solid lady boner, while her friend Shadie (Zooey Deutch) is a perfect fit for Jason—or, rather, she’s a perfect fit for the man that Jason wishes he could be. Both generations of Kelly men are chasing a dream as they venture forth to the land of Girls Gone Wild, while the girls are out to rattle some bones and find love, respectively.
Most of the material dives into jokes about boobs and wrinkly balls, and Dirty Grandpa doesn’t make excuses for its juvenile humour à la Porkies as grandfather and grandson chugs beers, tap booties, and smoke crack. The family that plays together stays together, and the film gives a raunchy take on the wisdom that passes down from generation to generation as the wild vacation offers Jason a lesson in finding true love and happiness by defying expectations. The agenda also lets Efron shake his booty from behind a bumblebee, which a kid basically fellates in one of those yes, they went there sight gags that’s too outrageous not to bring a laugh.
Dirty Grandpa is at its funniest, though, when Dick and Jason have frequent run-ins with a drug dealer named Tan Pam (Jason Mantzoukas) and a pair of inept cops played by Mo Collins and Henry Zebrowski. These bits are just plain lunacy as Jason goes in and out of jail, and Efron plays the square to a peanut gallery of goofy co-stars. The film has a few gaps of dead air in between its outrageous moments, so the energy sometimes sags like old man balls, but teen audiences and viewers in theatres with bottle service are bound to enjoy it.
Dirty Grandpa gives audiences exactly what they expect as Robert De Niro has a lot of fun in the zany role of the horny old timer. The part makes fun of his age and De Niro is a good sport about it, doing everything from “number three” (don’t ask/don’t tell) to upstaging some frat boys in a beach body contest. His natural crustiness complements the silliness of the material, as Dirty Grandpa lets De Niro drop zingers about women, gays, and black people that are outrageously passé. Dirty Grandpa is so blatantly political incorrect, though, that it gets away with a lot of un-PC humour by having De Niro let loose and not take himself seriously.
The smart casting choices extend to Plaza, who, although somewhat underused, is a hoot in her deadpan dirty performance as the girl with an old man fetish, while Deutch offers a likable sweet spot as Jason’s inevitable love interest. Efron is a great fit for the part of Jason, as the little Dick of Dirty Grandpa is a living, breathing Ken doll decked out in Banana Republic beachwear and fleece vests. (He’s “like Abercrombie fucked Fitch” notes one of the film’s louder, gayer commentators.) Like De Niro, Efron seems to be having a good time in Dirty Grandpa by letting himself be the butt of the joke. One silly karaoke number to Céline Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” pokes fun at Efron’s High School Musical days by letting him belt out the words of the Québécois crooner with ridiculous range and gusto. Who knew that Céline could be so macho? Dirty Grandpa might be funnier if it pushed the envelope off the table more consistently than it does, but as a dirty comedy, it’s a harmless alternative if Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay aren’t what audiences have in mind when it comes to old people sex this weekend. Just go with it.
Dirty Grandpa opens in theatres Jan. 22.