by Jacob SullivanDirty Grandpa is shockingly bad. I’m still in awe of just how atrocious this movie truly is. Not only did I laugh at one joke throughout the entire film, but the movie failed technically at an almost Birdemic level of incompetence. Lifeless acting, horrible racism, homophobic humor, mind-bogglingly bad editing, and a nonexistent story make Dirty Grandpa more than an uninspired raunchy comedy; rather, it is a spectacle in bad cinema. It may have been released three weeks into 2016, but I predict this might end up being be the worst movie of the year.
The film’s plot (what little there is) sees Jason (Zac Efron), an uptight lawyer, being guilt tripped into taking his horny and fittingly described “dirty” grandpa (Robert De Niro) on a road trip down to Florida after the grandfather’s wife of 40 years dies. While Jason is soon to be wed to a controlling fiancé (Juliane Hough), his grandfather convinces Jason to take him to Florida. The rest of the film follows the titular dirty grandpa as he runs around Daytona Beach with his grandson looking for sex, saying offensive one liners, and participating in enough edgy gross-out humor to make John Waters proud. But at least in a John Waters film there would be a point or some clever humor to the oddly mean-spirited and crass jokes.
There is only a certain number of times the joke “he is old yet horny, how zany!” can be funny. By the 15 minute mark, Robert De Niro’s grandpa character has already been seen masturbating to porn, insulting a gay black side character, groping female golfers, insulting his grandson’s penis size, and making jokes about the mentally handicapped. The film throws one joke after another at the wall, hoping something will stick, but nothing does. Some characters (e.g. the drug-dealing store owner played by Jason Mantzoukas) aren’t even characters; they exist solely to tell one joke. In the store owner’s case, the joke is that he sells drugs and likes to yell about it.
On top of the repetitive humor, many of the jokes are undone by the film’s ridiculous level of absurdity. The scenarios our main characters find themselves in are so far-fetched and convenient that they could never take place in real life. One scene finds a kid wanting to hug a bee plushie that covers Zac Efron’s genitals, making it look like Zac Efron is molesting the child. The film tries as hard as it can to get a shock, but in doing so, forgets to create a joke. Many “jokes” find Robert De Niro spouting various slurs. His character isn’t viewed negatively for his random offensiveness, though, which could make the “joke” funny in an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia way. The film instead wants us to sympathize with his character even after all his horribleness, which weakens the already forced dramatic scenes.
But the film isn’t just unfunny — it’s bad in a way I didn’t even expect. For a Hollywood production with such huge stars, some technical elements are erroneous at best. The sound editing abruptly cut the background music for no reason and in one scene, the sound completely left the film for a second or two. Meanwhile, a scene featuring a car crash not only has a stock crash sound effect come in early, but the film editing also fails to give the crash any impact.
These technical issues lead to one of the few pros of the film (if you would consider it a pro). Dirty Grandpa actually avoids the label of “boring” by being so inept in every conceivable way that it becomes “good.” I still don’t recommend it, but I found myself laughing at the shoddy edits, the hammy acting, the forced and offensive humor, and just the sheer absurdity of it all. The fact that I could laugh at all this isn’t a merit of the film in any way, though.
The only other pro is that Efron and De Niro aren’t completely unbearable. De Niro seems to be enjoying the role, throwing himself into whatever stupidity is tossed his way. The question of whether De Niro has comedy chops is still up for debate, but at the very least, he seems committed. Efron is faced with poor writing that causes his character to jump from one point of view to another, making it hard for the actor to even form a character. In one scene, he’s tired of his grandpa’s shenanigans, then he accepts it and parties, and without skipping a beat, he goes right back to being fed up with him. The character inconsistencies affect everyone, but Efron’s Jason seems to flip flop the most. Aside from the two leads who are at least trying, the extras and side characters read their lines as if it’s the first time they’ve ever said them.
Leaving the theater, I couldn’t help but laugh at what I just sat through. It wasn’t a laugh of joy, but an attempt to suppress the horror that is Dirty Grandpa.
1 out of 5 stars