‘Dirty Grandpa’ Review | When Filth is Boring
The art of filth seems to have vanished entirely from filmmaking. It seems that, when John Waters made his last film back in 2004, the era of savvy raunchiness ground quietly to a halt. And even before then, proper cinematic naughtiness was thin on the ground, consigned to a particular brand of late ’90s gross-out that audiences quickly lost interest in. This critic has, of course, seen innumerable crass comedies in the interim, but none of them seem to bring about any sort of genuine shock anymore. Perhaps I am a jaded old man who has lost his own capacity to be truly shocked, but it seems that dirty movies are being made by people who never learned to swear.
The latest limp, clean, safe, not-at-all-shocking shock comedy is Dirty Grandpa, a film that comes branded with a guarantee of thrilling grossness, but whose structure, look, and dialogue never manages to breach the quotidian. Directed by one of the Borat luminaries, Dan Mazer, Dirty Grandpa seems to feel that the mere presentation of a septuagenarian frankly discussing sexual matters and playing preadolescent butt pranks on his hapless grandson will be enough to get the crowd tittering. If that concept makes you guffaw, then you’ll be in good hands. If, however, you demand actual wit, style, grace, humor, and genuine dirtiness from your dirty comedies, you will be sorely disappointed. Also, it would help if your movie wasn’t – like so many damned buddy comedies are these days – shockingly anti-woman.
Robert De Niro plays the title grandpa, who has recently become a widower. Upon his wife’s advice, and surely eager to get back in the game, grandpa sets out on a quest to boink as many women as possible. To accomplish this task, he enlists his grandson Jason (Zac Efron) to drive him to Daytona Beach during Spring Break. It so happens that a slutty oldster-fetishist (Aubrey Plaza) is waiting there for them, alongside her gay best friend (snore) and bland “free spirit” best friend (Zoey Deutch). The free spirit character will, naturally, prove to be Jason’s ideal mate, forcing him to choose between a new romance with a pretty Earth mother, or his perfectionist, ball-busting fiancee (Julianne Hough).
None of this is particularly funny. No, not even the flip foulmouthed cops. No, not the scene where De Niro can list off all the members of The Wu-Tang Clan. No, not the numerable scenes wherein Jason is mocked for his clothing and called a lesbian. No, not Jason Mantzoukas as the Devil-may-care drug dealer. No, not the scene where Jason is drugged against his will, and wakes up naked on a beach with a swastika of penises drawn on his forehead, only to have a young boy approach him and grab at his crotch, leading to a scene wherein the boy’s father thinks Jason has been molesting the boy.
The messages of the film are also pretty offensive. While I appreciate the film’s decidedly half-assed Life’s Not Over Yet attitude toward the aged, I cannot get behind the tiresome re-use of the snippy fiancee archetype as embodied by Hough’s character. If movies are too be trusted, any women who wants to carefully plan her wedding is an emasculating harridan of the highest order, and lives life with no passion. Also, she’s usually cheating on her fiance. Such characters, then, are sacrificial shrews on the alter of inter-male bro-dogg camaraderie. All the women in this film are either harpies, prizes, or bikini-clan eye-candy. If this is Dirty Grandpa’s version of a subversive sexuality, leave me out.
So perhaps I was offended by Dirty Grandpa. Just not for any of the reasons the filmmakers wanted me to be offended.
Top Image: Lionsgate
Witney Seibold is a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. He also contributes to Legion of Leia, and Blumhouse. You can follow him on “Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.