Don’t start. Whatever you think you have to say, I’ve heard it. Some movies aren’t meant to be thought too hard about. Some movies, you just have to sit back and laugh. Dirty Grandpa is just 100 minutes of raunchy filth, it was never going to have any artistic merit. Just don’t start. The Wolf of Wall Street is three full hours of raunchy filth, and its artistic merit is beyond reproach. Pulp Fiction is 150 minutes of raunchy filth, and it is an unquestioned masterpiece that defines and defies its genre. So don’t tell me that Dirty Grandpa couldn’t possibly have been any good. Don’t tell me that there’s a category of movie that’s meant to be greeted with a vapid, slack-jawed stare that’s retroactively called “entertainment.” The idea that some movies are made to be analyzed and obsessed over and others are made to be enjoyed is a savage fallacy that ignores basic human nature. We don’t analyze and obsess over a movie because someone else said it was good, and we don’t enjoy a movie and watch it over and over again without noticing new things or forming new opinions on it. We analyze and obsess over certain movies because we enjoy them. These two ways of expressing love for a particular film are one and the same. Any time someone excuses a movie by saying it “wasn’t meant to be criticized” or “wasn’t meant to be thought about beyond a surface level,” what they’re really saying is that movie wasn’t meant to be enjoyed. So fuck Lionsgate and director Dan Mazer for so unapologetically applying this mentality that some movies don’t need to be enjoyable in any way because they aren’t trying to please critics to every aspect of this movie, and if you use that mentality as an excuse to financially support this sniveling afterbirth of a film, fuck you too.
Dirty Grandpa follows Dick (Robert De Niro) and Jason Kelly (Zac Efron), a formerly close grandfather/grandson pair in the aftermath of Dick’s wife’s death. Despite being a busy lawyer with his father’s firm and a week away from getting married himself, Jason is roped into driving Dick back home to Florida. Dick soon ropes Jason again into a few days’ trip to Daytona Beach. Wacky antics ensue.
This only possible justification for this movie was as a cheap laugh, and it doesn’t rise even to that level. This movie will not make you laugh. There aren’t any good jokes in this movie.
There aren’t any jokes in this movie full stop, if you break it down. Many scenes revolve around Dick Kelly calling Jason or his car a vagina or a more specific part of the female anatomy. That’s not a joke, it’s just name calling. A scene after they first reach Daytona Beach sees Jason try to have a conversation, but Dick reply by reading the sassy phrases on nearby shirts and bumper stickers, the “joke” being that the phrases apply to the conversation. In a late scene at Jason’s wedding rehearsal, the joke is he has to break up with his fiance, Meredith Goldstein (Julianne Hough) over an elaborate game of telephone in a scene that doesn’t make any spacial sense. The room is quiet and paying attention only to them, they can clearly hear each other.
As if the lack of anything even resembling humor weren’t enough, this scene sets off a powderkeg of boring, plot-driving talks between characters about happiness and the meaning of life or whatever. The sudden attempt to have some kind of moral to the story, or even a story in the first place, is a stupid misstep in a movie that didn’t seem like it had any more to make. If anything, this segment of the film is even more mind numbing than the non-jokes.
Only thing Dirty Grandpa has to offer that anyone would actually want to see is Aubrey Plaza’s naked body, and filmmakers know it. The only smart decision put into this entire movie was to put the heavily advertised scene between her character and Dick Kelly at the tail end. It doesn’t make any narrative sense — Lenore (Plaza) talks in no uncertain terms about her desire for Kelly the second she’s on screen, but somehow takes several days to get into bed with him — but it does make sense from the producer’s perspective. This scene is the only reason anyone would sit through the labyrinth of filth that is this movie, so it’s put at the very end so no one will walk out and skip any of the preceding torment.
Plaza is far from the only actor to get naked in the movie. Nudity, mostly Efron’s, is another thing that is used as a poor substitute for actual jokes. The only time it isn’t Efron is the scene Dick Kelly gets naked and plants his junk next to his grandson’s head, again as a joke-surrogate. The camera pans across Jason Kelly’s snoozing head to one of the most obviously fake penises in cinematic history. The thing has a plastic sheen and a bizarre matte above that doesn’t look anything like pubic hair, and it’s planted at such an angle that even if a viewer doesn’t know what actual penises look like, there couldn’t possibly be a body attached to it in that position. It’s a metaphor for the entire movie, really — the prosthetic’s appearance is meant to shock people into nervous laughter, but filmmakers couldn’t be bothered to bring in anything that looked remotely like a real cock.
It has to be asked if there’s anything De Niro won’t do for money at this point. He wasn’t even the first choice here — Jeff Bridges and Michael Douglas were first offered the role. De Niro at least seems alive in this film, which is more than can be said of his previous efforts over the past several years.
It cannot be stressed enough how much you need to not see this movie, or at least not pay for it. It represents the laziest, most cynical aspects of modern filmmaking, the combined worst possible conclusions of the concepts of dump months, B movies, sex comedies and star power. Make every effort to avoid this film.
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. I am not Spartacus. I’ve had a change of heart in regard to reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.