The more juvenile and gross-out comedies were once movies like Dumb and Dumber and even There’s Something About Mary, movies with certain elements for the whole family scattered with awkward moments. Since the popularity of movie franchises like Scary Movie however, the shift towards crude and cruder humour has found its way into an already loose definition of what is a “comedy” genre film. While a good comedy is always character driven, many recent comedies come with stock-standard characters with a series of inappropriate events as filler. What Dirty Grandpa offers, however, are A-list actors, yet there’s one thought constantly in the back of one’s mind when watching: if no well-known actors were attached, the film would be completely dismissed like a straight-to-DVD American Pie spinoff.
Robert De Niro is cast as the titular potty-mouthed Grandpa, locked in after rumours circulated that Jeff Bridges and Michael Douglas were attached for the role at various points during development. The Grandpa is Dick Kelly, a recently widowed man who plots to trick his grandson Jason (Zac Efron) into driving him to Florida for Spring Break a week before Jason is due to be married. Dick’s mission since his wife’s passing is to have sex at every opportunity, which is not all that bad an objective, making Jason come off almost prudish for a millennial when the two discuss this plan. Dick, as it is explained, has not had sex for fifteen years due to his late wife’s cancer.
So, good for Dick, he would like to get back out there. Dick meets his match in Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), a college student who has a near-complete list of sexual conquests that puts Dick in her radar.
The ‘college slut’ is the perfect trope for a comedy actress pro like Plaza to work with, and she certainly helps bring about some of the film’s funniest scenes. The problem in making sex comedic in Dirty Grandpa lies more in the fact that it is still presented as inappropriate enough to get laughs. Considering that the college slut and the elderly person are the last two characters in these kind of films who the audience supposedly wants to see happily pursuing sex, Dick and Lenore actually come off as the most endearing, but they still have to be viewed as freakish to be considered funny. One scene between them in particular plays out in a similar way to the S1E4 of Louie, ‘So Old/Playdate,’ where a significantly younger woman is attracted to Louie C.K. because of his age.
It’s a shame Dirty Grandpa didn’t take the opportunity to cut down scenes that are not actually amusing, many moments coming across instead as simply tired, awkward and gross. It can’t be more expensive to hire some talented writers than it is to stage an unfunny highway car chase scene with our main character driving an ice-cream truck.
Much of the dialogue in Dirty Grandpa, while crude, simply falls flat because not enough time is taken for character motivation. Bad examples of “risqué” comedy like this could turn a whole generation conservative if plot and purpose falls by the wayside. While Dirty Grandpa is halfway there to being a remotely decent comedy, if it is remotely successful at the box-office it could at least mean more highly regarded actors take chances on lowbrow comedy, which could mark a welcome rejuvenation to the genre.
THE REEL SCORE: 5/10