Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dirty Grandpa


Starring: Zac Efron, Robert DeNiro, Zoey Deutch, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Mantzoukas, Julianne Hough, Dermot Mulroney

Rated R for Crude Sexual Content Throughout, Graphic Nudity, and for Language and Drug Use

The opening scene is key to the film.  A young lawyer is telling an anecdote (at his grandmother's funeral, no less) so wrapped up in legal jargon that only lawyers would get it.  He and the other men laugh the kind of arrogant laugh that shows they know how sophisticated they are.  If the storyteller were any man, we'd see him as a self-absorbed jerk.  But because he's played by Zac Efron, we know what this really is: he's putting himself on airs to show how adult he is.  He wants to show everyone that he's a perfect young professional, way above partying and crude sex jokes.  We all know one or two of them (when you're my age, they're everywhere).

His name is Jason, and he's a corporate lawyer working for his dad's (Mulroney) firm.  He's getting married to the gorgeous yet equally superficial Meredith (Hough).  His grandfather Dick (DeNiro) wants to continue his wife's legacy of going to Florida, but because he doesn't have a license, he wants Jason to drive him.  Reluctant due to a "busy" schedule, Jason agrees.  That he finds Dick doing "number three" when he arrives to take him should tell you that this trip will not be a simple stroll down memory lane.

"Dirty Grandpa's" screenplay is funny enough in its own right, but the masterstroke was casting Efron and DeNiro.  The lines and antics are funnier being performed by them.  It would amusing if the filmmakers had played it safe and cast, say, Jonah Hill and Danny DeVito.  But we expect them to be rude and crude.  We don't expect the lead characters to be trading four-letter words and participating in sex gags if they're played by an ex-Disney kid and an acting legend.

The movie works because neither actor is phoning it in.  Efron, who has long since left the House of Mouse behind him, is so obsessed with pleasing his dad that he hasn't thought of what he wants for himself.  DeNiro, who has proved many times that he knows how to get a laugh (who can forget his reaction shot in the "milking the cat" scene in "Meet the Parents?"), is great as a man who is determined to take advantage of his freedom in the way that his wife would have wanted him to.  Movies have given us sex-obsessed senior citizens, but never to the extent of Dick Kelly.  Also effective is Julianne Hough, who is very good as the bridezilla.  She's cute, but no sane man would want to marry this harridan.  It also helps that no actor in this movie has any shame whatsoever.  And I mean none.

"Dirty Grandpa" isn't a perfect movie, and will not go down in history as one of the great comedies like "The Hangover."  The plot, while played earnestly, is too formulaic, and the romance between Jason and a pretty activist named Shadia (Deutch) is more obligatory than earned.  Plus some of the supporting characters, like Pam the drug dealer (Mantzoukas) and the two bumbling cops are more irritating than funny.  But if you're looking for some hearty laughs, this will fit the bill.

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