What makes a great comedy?
The obvious answer is that it has to makes you laugh! But the best remembered comedies are the ones that allows you to connect with the characters. You believe in their personality, often filled with their witty banter whilst exploring their complicated relationships. When those comedic moments happen, you laugh at their embarrassing plight.
All those elements I mentioned are absent in Dirty Grandpa…
Jason Kelly: [shows up in a yellow sweater and plaid slacks] “Well, how do I look?”
Dick Kelly: “Like the keynote speaker at a butt-fucking convention.”
One hour and forty-two minutes – time I would love to get back but sadly I don’t own a time machine or a Men in Black memory erasing device.
Dirty Grandpa is not good and the only time you could envisage yourself watching this film is if you’re with a group of friends and you couldn’t care less at what you’re watching. But even under those circumstances, I still wouldn’t put this on!
It’s not to say that I’m a prude or easily offended. I wasn’t looking for a comedy film that was philosophical or contained some deeper meaning or perspective to life itself. I knew what I was getting into therefore this was not a total surprise – the title of the film is a dead giveaway! The simple fact is I wanted to be entertained.
When a joke is done right, you can’t argue with it. But seriously ask yourself this question – what film have you seen in the last couple of years that has made you laugh yourself silly? Here are mine:
- Tropic Thunder
- Black Dynamite
- The Wolf of Wall Street
The last one is not really a comedy!
The point I’m trying to make is that those films I mentioned all have something memorable. Whether it’s a specific scene or a line of dialogue, once remembered it brings a smile to your face.
Dirty Grandpa doesn’t have those standout moments. Yes you will chuckle at some points but it’s not “ha ha” funny. You’ll end up feeling like you’re laughing at the film as a whole, questioning how it got made instead of laughing along with them and the moments that occur.
The film is filled with so much vulgarity and profanity that it overwhelms anything else this film had to offer. The jokes are continuously forced as if it wasn’t sure where to end it, filling in the gaps where the plot should be.
Lenore: “I like your pull out couch.”
Dick Kelly: “Yeah? Well I got news for ya, that’s the only thing that’s gonna be pulling out tonight.”
Trust me, there is a plot – it’s hiding in plain sight. In essence, Dirty Grandpa is about second chances, moving on and living life again. Dick Kelly (Robert De Niro) loses his wife to cancer. The last thing she said to him was to “get back out there again”. On that aspect alone, there is some sentiment especially with the older generation. That being said, it doesn’t take long before the dick jokes, the drug use, the sexual lust, the paedophilia, the gay and lesbian name calling, the N-word and a scene involving masturbation, for it to completely erase that sentiment.
It’s like watching 2-3 films in one, as if you went shopping and got yourself an unexpected bargain. But all it does is cover up how wafer thin the plot is. On one hand you have a OAP coping with his wife’s death. On the other you have Jason Kelly (Zac Efron), a corporate lawyer who’s about to get married but is forced to drive his grandpa up to Florida. On this roadtrip, Grandpa Kelly starts to question his grandson’s life choices and decides to trick him by detouring for some spring break shenanigans in Daytona beach. In conclusion, the plot becomes lost as if it was confused at what point or goal it was trying to achieve. Not surprisingly, it results in an unbalanced film.
The story itself is not rocket science but at the same time it offers nothing new. It’s very predictable and clichéd and if you find yourself guessing how the film is going to end after the first twenty minutes, then you should give yourself a pat on the back because it will be correct. There’s too many coincidences or lazy attempts at writing character motivations to justify what happens. I mean what are the chances that Jason would meet one of his former photography classmates, Shadia (Zoey Deutch) during the trip?
A comedy is as good as the supporting cast and again this film doesn’t really utilise them. Dirty Grandpa is filled with a whole range of annoying, stereotypical characters. They become time fillers in a nonsensical plot:
- The high maintenance and controlling fiancé – Meredith (Julianne Hough)
- The guy who sells drugs to the community – Tan Pam (Jason Mantzoukas)
- The horny co-ed – Lenore aka Audrey Plaza being Audrey Plaza
- The uptight father – David Kelly (Dermot Mulroney)
- That cousin that no one likes – Nick (Adam Pally)
- The two dumb cops etc
You start to get the picture. For some of those characters, their behaviour is so distracting and exaggerated that it takes away the necessary screen time from De Niro and Efron who are certainly the stronger aspects of Dirty Grandpa.
Yet this is the part where I feel sad. Whether you’re a fan of his work or not, De Niro’s legacy as an actor will be cemented with ground breaking films like Casino, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and Heat – just to name a few. Dirty Grandpa will not. In fact it’s not in the same league and will be remembered as a sad, cringeworthy and misguided adventure for an incredible and legendary actor.
Watching De Niro in Dirty Grandpa is a distraction, a painful one. If this was his attempt to continually shed off his “tough guy” image, then this film was not the right way to go. The script is not challenging enough as you watch De Niro “being De Niro” instead of embodying his character. His character has a secret past but you could argue that it’s ripped from Meet the Parents which is a far superior film in comparison to this. Whilst I can’t deny the hidden sentiment in Dick Kelly, however he spends most of his time sexually lusting after Lenore and vice versa. I’m not trying to say “older men don’t have feelings” etc, but there are better ways to convey that without coming across as crass, vulgar and cheap. Because it’s De Niro saying the dialogue, you can’t erase that out of your mind. Sad to say, this film is a lowpoint.
I know what you’re thinking – this review will inspire you to see this for yourself. Bad publicity is good publicity right?
Dirty Grandpa is a film that knows its target audience. It does have its moments but at the end of the day it’s simply not funny. There’s not enough for it to carry the momentum throughout and the jokes end up being woefully misjudged and unnecessary.
Save yourself the hassle. If you’re looking for a gross-out comedy there are better examples out there. This film is not one of them.