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| 15 February 2016 | Reply

Directed by Dan Mazer
Starring Robert De Niro, Zac Effron, Aubrey Plaza
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
6 ½ /10

Dirty Grandpa poster

At the heart of Dirty Grandpa is a rather heartwarming tale of familial redemption – you’ll just have to sit through a LOT of un-PC gags (many of which are hilarious) and a couple of inexcusably offensive scenes.

“I want to fuck a horse and I want to drink its blood!” De Niro’s Dick Kelly bellows at one point, strangely comfortable having turned his hand to crass, low-brow comedy. We’ll find out later that Dick’s over the top behaviour (tossing off a “number three” to porn, beating up gang bangers, partying hard at college keggers, flirting outrageously with girls his grandson’s age, rapping at a karaoke bar) is a ruse to rebuild his long-lost bond with grandson Jason (Efron), but the first half of the movie focusses too hard on the “look at De Niro do THAT!” spectacle of it all, to the movie’s detriment.

It’s also where the filmmakers go too far: an overlong party scene falls flat by glorifying drink spiking (not okay), ‘accidental’ crack smoking to a cheering crowd (never okay), and sexual objectification and borderline sexual harassment of some girls at the party (totally not okay). Inexcusable on all three counts and far funnier, less intolerable alternatives that still shocked the mainstream could have easily been found for each and every one of these poor taste joke flops.

Anyway, if we VERY generously look past those bits, we can follow Dick as he bullies the reluctant Jason to drive him to Florida after the death from cancer of his wife of many years. Faithful for forty years, Dick declares he wants to “fuck, fuck, fuck”, but his real reason for the trip is in reminding Jason of who he was as a kid – before his over-controlling father and superbitch nearly-wife inserted a (metaphorical) stick the size of Christmas up his butt.

Along the way Dick insults pretty much every minority he can find – but the filmmakers are careful to underline the point that no prejudices are involved nor grudges held whatsoever – quite the opposite: every gay guy or African American insulted then gets brought in close for a big ole’ hug. It’s important in these over-PC days that this isn’t seen as sexism, homophobia, racism but good natured teasing fun, and there’s ample jokes at the expense of heterosexual Caucasian men to keep the keel more than even.

Efron good naturedly allows himself to be put through the ringer in a series of gags, there’s a pointlessness to a guest spot by Danny Glover as an ex-Special Forces buddy in an old person’s home fixing to die, and a few funny performances – especially from Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Recreation) as a teenager very into Kelly the elder, and Mo Collins & Henry Zebrowski as a couple of cops following their own rulebook – but De Niro is centre stage here: everyone else is a bit player. In the third act we discover the pathos he’s been saving up as he deals with his grief and ponders what’s left in his dotage. This being De Niro, he takes what could have been a crass, one-dimensional role and turns it into something more, for anyone willing to look past the foul mouthery.

A lot of the bile directed at the film (and there has been a lot) seems to be of the “how could DeNiro stoop so low” variety, which is unfair. Whilst it’s no Raging Bull, Taxi Driver or even Analyze This (it’s far funnier, actually), DIRTY GRANDPA does have its share of truly funny moments around the tastelessness; De Niro proves adept at playing the conflicted septuagenarian trying to reconnect with his family; and his comic timing is spot on at all times.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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