Dirty Grandpa wasn’t a film that I expected to enjoy as much as I did. The casting of the two leads had me doubtful.
In many ways, Dirty Grandpa is a straightforward odd-couple/road-trip movie: retired career-soldier Dick Kelly (Robert De Niro) convinces his uptight lawyer grandson, Jason (Zac Efron), to drive him to Florida during spring break – a week before Jason is due to marry his fiancé (Julianne Hough). De Niro is perfectly cast as the titular grandfather, a character that carefully toes the line between offensive and endearing. Efron is similarly appealing as Jason, a character who often seems to become a parody of Efron himself.
Though there is an underlying theme of mortality and a weak attempt at anti-consumerism running throughout Dirty Grandpa, it’s fun to see a comedy that isn’t trying to be more than it is. A self-awareness of genre and political correctness permeates this film. It isn’t trying to send any kind of grand message, but neither is it entirely willing to be complicit in the racism, homophobia, and sexism that one normally sees played for laughs in movies of this kind.
Despite the charisma of its two leads, the film falls apart in its sentimental third act and tries a bit too hard to tie up loose ends. Ultimately, much of the story is predictable and many of the supporting performances become tedious when Dirty Grandpa lets its focus stray from De Niro and Efron.
First-time screenwriter John Phillips has conceived some memorable lines – mostly delivered by De Niro – and director Dan Mazer (co-producer/co-writer of Brüno and Borat) provides more than a few genuinely hilarious moments. The bright and colourful cinematography is well-suited for the partying tone of the film, as is the upbeat soundtrack. Still, the driving force of the film is the chemistry between Efron and De Niro. When they are on screen together, they bring an energy that is irresistible.
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Shannon Page: @ShannonEvePage