Never let it be said that Robert De Niro falsely advertises his movie roles. His inability to say no to bad ones is an entirely different matter.
For Dirty Grandpa, he’s a filthy granddad indeed, providing dubious life lessons to an unhip and unwilling grandson played by Zac Efron.
De Niro’s Dick Kelly swears like a trooper, masturbates like a porn star, flouts rules like a gangster and generally carries on like the creepiest of senior citizens.
That’s all before the end of the first reel — and there’s more, a lot more. The only thing missing is the laughter.
Dick wants to party after burying his wife of decades. He bullies his grandson Jason (Efron), an uptight lawyer a week away from marrying the boss’s daughter, into driving him to Daytona Beach for Spring Break.
Absolutely nothing that follows is surprising — bar fights, karaoke duels, muscle-flexing beach contests, encounters with nubile young ladies — apart from De Niro’s jaw-dropping eagerness to live up to the movie’s title.
It’s as if director Dan Mazer, who shared writing credits for Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat and Brüno, and screenwriter John Phillips (the upcoming Bad Santa 2) were playing a game of “bet you De Niro won’t do this!”
They both won (or lost) because De Niro, 72, does it all. This includes spending much time manoeuvring to have sex with the randy Lenore, played by 31-year-old Aubrey Plaza of TV’s Parks and Recreation. Lenore has a thing for seniors — the raunchier, the better.
Jason, meanwhile, remembers his youthful ambition to be a photographer as he develops an attraction to Lenore’s pal Shadia (Zoey Deutch), who is everything that his Bridezilla-to-be Meredith (Julianne Hough) isn’t. This being a Zac Efron movie, he also takes his shirt off a lot — and his pants.
If any of this were actually funny, it wouldn’t be so terrible. But it’s not, and among the many tedious cardboard characters are such comedy clichés as a brazen drug dealer (Jason Mantzoukas), a stoner cousin (Adam Pally) and two scofflaw cops (Mo Collins and Henry Zebrowski).
Dirty Grandpa does have one distinction. It makes De Niro’s previous comedy low point Meet the Fockers look good by comparison.