It’s only January, but Dirty Grandpa is so desperately unfunny and excruciatingly endless at 102 minutes that it’s dead certain for a top spot on lists of the year’s worst movies. Starring Robert De Niro and directed by Dan Mazer (co-writer of Borat and Bruno) from a script by John Phillips (writer of the upcoming Bad Santa 2), Dirty Grandpa is a road movie that will in no way, shape or form remind anyone of De Niro’s certifiably great late ‘80s road movie Midnight Run.
In this one, the 72-year-old De Niro plays a nasty, racist, homophobic widowed horndog granddaddy named Dick (cock joke, get it?) who badgers Jason, his straight-arrow, soon-to-be-married lawyer grandson (Zac Efron, bland and humorless) into driving him to Florida where he plans on busting loose and making hot, sweet love for the first time in 15 years – with a college coed. If Efron’s character had a lick of sense, he would have smothered his loathsome, deeply creepy grandfather with a pillow. Anyone would call it a mercy killing. But no, instead the movie shoves its two clichéd odd-couple characters along the tired drugs, sex, partying route, all of it very sub-Apatow, let alone sub-Neighbors. What passes for action, character and motivation is only once in a while energized by Aubrey Plaza (looking utterly disdainful, as she should) playing a sexed-up student who lusts after much older men, so long as they’re nasty, which makes De Niro’s Dick her obsession.
At least she and the once-venerated actor generate a weird, trailer-trash chemistry that’s absent from anything going on between Efron and De Niro. The moviemakers seem to think it’s transgressive to get an iconic actor like De Niro to sputter the “f” word every few seconds, masturbate like mad, press his crotch against Efron’s face, do Ice Cube songs at karaoke, rattle off the names of Wu-Tang Clan members and harass another character (played by Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) for being gay and black. De Niro, whose own real-life father was gay, seems so eager for any and all humiliation the movie can throw at him, you just want to pretend you can un-see and un-hear what you know can’t.
Dirty Grandpa is a worthless thing that flies its puny, tattered filth flag high when it’s pretty much just a replay of the Barbra Streisand-Seth Rogen movie The Guilt Trip, only this time with jokes about smegma.