Dirty Grandpa (2016) / "Comedy"
aka Nadir Hunter
aka Raging Bulls**t
MPAA Rated: R for crude sexual content throughout, graphic nudity, and for language and drug use
Running Time: 102 min.
Cast: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Mantzoukas, Julianne Hough, Dermot Mulroney, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman
Small role: Danny Glover
Director: Dan Mazer
Screenplay: John Phillips
Review published January 23, 2016
In a week in which the world mourned a couple of truly tragic deaths, we certainly didn't need to add Robert De Niro's (Joy, The Intern) acting career to the already depressing list. I guess now that Robert De Niro has come to the conclusion that he isn't likely to win any major awards for his acting, he must think that he can can stay in the awards discussion if he does movies that will get him a Golden Raspberry Award. It's only January, but I'm willing to give De Niro that Razzie right now for 2016 (he's earned it) if he promises to never do a film like this ever again. It is, by far, the worst film in a long and once distinguished career.
It's a movie so damaging to his clout as an actor that one wonders if it was done as a "Dustin Diamond sex tape"-caliber desperate cry for help. Does some unscrupulous film producer have hidden hotel-room surveillance footage of De Niro in an embarrassing situation with a goat? And, if so, why wasn't that footage used in this film, as it would easily fit right in with the kind of degrading acts that a legend like De Niro is asked to perform within the course of this cinematic abomination? If Dirty Grandpa were merely just an unfunny film, we could overlook it as a bad career decision on the part of De Niro and likely forget it within a few months, just like most of his work of the last ten years. This one's gonna leave a nasty mark, and may forever tarnish his reputation in a way that not even David O. Russell can redeem.
In the film, De Niro plays Dick Kelly, a very recent widower who is being driven by his uptight corporate lawyer grandson Jason (Efron, We Are Your Friends) from the former's home in Georgia to his Boca vacation home, and the latter's marriage celebration and ceremony in Florida. After 40 years of having only sex with one woman, grandpa Dick is ready to get his perv on by sowing his wild oats with college girls in Daytona Beach partying for spring break, and persistently cajoles Jason to try to remove the stick from his ass and party along with him, even if it comes at the potential cost of his impending marriage.
First-time screenwriter John Phillips seems to have consulted Urban Dictionary for the spice up most of its gags, with a deliberate attempt to draw comedy almost entirely from a whole host of social taboos. A gay character is introduced merely to drum up gay jokes. The same with its black gangster characters. And then there are the push-button issues to try to draw out uncomfortable laughs, ranging from wince-inducing sight gags about pedophilia to bestiality. Penis jokes, quips about prison rape, drug dealing and substance abuse, and a whole host of other means to try to push the envelope into so-called edgy comedy reek of desperation in the absence of genuine wit. Meanwhile, the filmmakers milk the notion that it's just funny to see an old man, and perhaps more specifically De Niro, spout off pop culture references and slangy dialogue that few outside of its target demographic (drunken frat boys) would know about, just goes to show the utter contempt they have for their characters ... and of their audience.
British director Dan Mazer (I Give It a Year), once a screenwriter himself for Sacha Baron Cohen vehicles like Borat and Bruno, must be on a one-man crusade to make typical Americans look like the biggest, shallowest idiots on the planet. That a recent entry in Mazer's filmography is titled WTF America is not much of a surprise; that first-time screenwriter John Phillips' next script will be for the sequel to the film Dirty Grandpa is cribbing most from, Bad Santa, is even less so. If this seemingly ad-libbed film even had a screenplay going in, it was built on the premise of trying to make audience's say, "OMG! I can't believe they went there!" What Mazer and Phillips daily to realize is that this style of comedy only works on the element of surprise, which means you have to pick your spots. If every spot is meant to be wildly outrageous, it will cease just cease to be so, no matter how far they try to push the envelope of taste.
Motivations for the characters make little sense, and are enitrely inconsistent. Sometimes, they mystify completely, such as a scene in which Jason catches his grandpa Dick finishing up a masturbation session in his home, followed by Dick making a derisive comment about Jason driving his fiancée's emasculating hot pink Mini Cooper (aka, 'the giant labia') over there -- something Dick couldn't have known unless he looked outside as Jason drove up, which means he deliberately continued to (or worse, started to) spank it just so his grandson would catch him in the act. In a later scene, Dick drops trou as he snuggles up in the bed he shares with Jason, who is rightfully unnerved at his grandpa's nudity, to which Dick decides to put his penis in the young man's face. Between that scene, and another in which Dick turns to admire a nude Jason's penis shape and size, one wonders if Dick isn't trying to enlighten his grandson so much as seduce him (which, come to think of it, might explain the film's poster bewildering nod to The Graduate.)
The makers of this film seem to be pushing forward the assertion that being a real man means feeding one's id rather than trying to respect one's family or do things to please one's future spouse, who are regularly painted as the bad guys because they expect more out of a person than just unbridled acts of self-destructive hedonism. If you haven't lied your way into casual, unprotected sex with nymphomaniacs, passed out from the hardest drugs at the parties, ridiculed anyone who isn't a white, heterosexual male, or gotten into violent confrontations with everyone who might shout an insult at you before you could insult them first, then you're a worthless, emasculated putz who is unworthy of respect.
Dirty Grandpa is one of the more unpleasant experiences I've had in a theater in recent years, competing with the likes of Sex Tape as perhaps the worst comedy of the decade thus far. I like the cast, but I hate seeing them get utterly humiliated by filmmakers who are, if this effort is any indication, shamefully unworthy of being given the funds to make any form of cinema. Determined to deliver laughs just by being offensive, Dirty Grandpa does offend because it panders to that specific slice of the movie-going populace who will laugh at anything, and I do mean anything, that smacks of vulgarity, debauchery or acrimony. That it actually tries to pass off these loathsome characters as people we might care to find happiness or love by the end is the biggest mystery, showing just how clueless the makers of this travesty are in assuming we would have the vaguest fondness, empathy or interest in these cardboard people who seem to only exist in order to set up for excessively crass scenarios that debase them as they perpetually degrade everyone they encounter. After seeing Robert De Niro 'spank it' to amateur porn, the notion of a happy ending (or, as he calls it, 'taking a number 3'), is the last thing I want to think about.
However, none of the characters debase or degrade each other as much as Robert De Niro does to himself by consenting to appear in perhaps the lowest of an already low form of film he could have chosen outside of hardcore porn or snuff films. And just when you think it couldn't get any worse, it asks the same out of a slumming Danny Glover (Diablo) -- at least he only has a cameo as a man named, appropriately (for this movie), Stinky. For a film that seems so desperate to do anything and everything it can to draw out laughs from us, the feeling of sadness and soul-crushing disappointment we experience at seeing one of the most venerable actors of his generation reduced to crass body-fluid gags and extoling the virtues of being a self-absorbed jerk is downright demoralizing to the fan base hopeful for a return to form.
On the bright side, De Niro fans, at least there's nowhere for Bobby to go but up from here.
Qwipster's rating: (lowest rating)
©2016 Vince Leo