Long revered as one of the greatest actors of all time, Robert De Niro’s more recent output is probably best described as a mixed bag. It’s been hard to discount the possibility that he’s adopted the Michael Caine approach of saying ‘yes’ to whatever he’s offered or whatever offers the best pay day. Perhaps Robert De Niro has become Bobby Dinero?
That’s the mind-set I had going into “Dirty Grandpa”. Coming out of the film, I had formed a different thesis: he might just have chosen to do this film because of the amount of fun he’d have doing it. At the very least, he’s trolling critics in general – and his critics in particular – hard.
“Dirty Grampa” has little time for the subtleties of character in its set-up as henpecked, straight-laced lawyer Jason (Zac Efron) reluctantly agrees to take his Grandpa (Robert De Niro) to Florida to catch up with an old army buddy – against the wishes of his Stepford-esque and controlling fiancée Meredith (Julianne Hough). Meredith is materialistic, shallow and selfish and from the word go, you’re rooting for the crude, cussing Grandpa to get Jason to loosen up a bit before it’s too late. Luckily gramps is helped out by the oddballs they meet on their road trip.
Littered with profanity, marvellously freewheeling trash talk and a neat line in sarcastic, sophomoric and occasionally sadistic humour, “Dirty Grandpa” isn’t one for the art house crowd. Much of the humour is driven by shock value more than genuine funniness and will inevitably offer diminishing returns on repeated viewing but you’ll still find things to laugh out loud to, often while shaking your head.
De Niro’s having a whale of a time while Efron, who established his bawdy comedy chops in last year’s “Bad Neighbours”, ups the ante again and proves he’s pretty much up for anything. There’s even a sly call back to the very first scene of his movie debut in “High School Musical”. Despite the gleefully immature hijinks of De Niro and Efron, the film is nearly stolen from under them by Jason Mantzoukas’ crazy drug dealing souvenir shop owner Pam and Aubrey Plaza’s hilarious turn as a predatory reverse cougar with her hungry eyes set firmly on De Niro.
Fans of the Farrelly Brothers will find much to enjoy in Dan Mazer’s directorial follow-up to the lacklustre “I Give It A Year”. Brash, breezy and crude, it’s not big and it’s certainly not clever but it is fun. Trashy, vulgar, profoundly stupid, offensive (if you’re the kind of person looking to take offence) fun, to be sure, but fun nonetheless.