“Dirty Grandpa”: Robert De Nir-Ho Oh No!
It’s only been a few weeks since I posted my picks for the 10 Worst Movies of 2015, and I’ve already got a surefire candidate for one of the Worst Movies of 2016: Dirty Grandpa. As I sit here writing my review and Winter Storm Jonas pounds my New Jersey home, I’m starting to think this blizzard is an Act of God to keep people from enduring this cinematic atrocity. The poster above, a parody of The Graduate, is wittier than anything in the movie. Which isn’t saying much.
Let’s consider the esteemed co-stars with whom Robert De Niro has shared the screen: Al Pacino. Joe Pesci. Meryl Streep. Charles Grodin. Harvey Keitel. Robin Williams. Jeremy Irons. Jodie Foster. Robert Duvall. Zac Efron. Which one of these is not like the others? The High School Musical grad plays De Niro’s grandson, who agrees to accompany him to Florida in the aftermath of his wife’s death and winds up engaging in the kind of mindless Spring Break debauchery not seen since… well, 1983’s Spring Break. And that looks like Raging Bull next to this pile of utter crap.
It’s not like De Niro hasn’t made gawdawful movies before: Bear in mind this guy has been in three Fockers films, and his character here—a Special Forces veteran—is meant to remind us of Ben Stiller’s polygraph-giving father-in-law in those un-focking-funny pieces of shiz. And let us not forget his cartoonish (and not in a good way) turn as Fearless Leader in the (barely) live-action version of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. He’s even done direct-to-DVD turds like Heist, with Jeffrey Dean Morgan; The Bag Man, with John Cusack; Killing Season, with John Travolta; and Freelancers, with Fitty Cent (which is more than you should pay to see Dirty Grandpa).
But never, ever has Bob sunk lower than he does here. He recites the punny punchlines—many with moldy pop-culture references (Rent, k.d. lang, Time magazine) that suggest the script has been sitting on the shelf for a bad long while—as if he’s reading them for the first time, phonetically. The film’s best joke is casting Mormon poster girl Julianne Hough as Efron’s uptight Jewish fianceé. Its worst joke is how it wastes the talented Aubrey Plaza as De Niro’s horny-for-the-elderly “love” interest. Anyone who doubt there’s sexism in Hollywood needs only look at how Chris Pratt—the least funny cast member of Parks & Recreation‘s ensemble—has been elevated to movie superstardom, while Plaza—by far the best thing about Parks & Rec—has been reduced to trading smutty double entendres with a septuagenarian.
The script casually traffics in racist and homophobic jokes, then has the audacity to have De Niro teach some racist homophobes a lesson with his fists after they harrass the same gay-stereotype character he’s been insulting throughout the film. Efron shows no sense of comic timing but does show a lot of flesh (he dances the Macarena with only a hornet’s mask over his privates, if that’s your kind of thing).
One can only conclude from this deeply depressing endeavor that Robert De Niro is a big ho. He’ll happily debase himself for money. (He did draw the line at showing his penis; a prosthetic is used in its place.) At last he’s secured himself a place in movie history as the co-star of both the best road-trip comedy of all time—Midnight Run—and the worst. If you see Grandpa, you’ll be the one who ends up feeling dirty.