Older doesn’t always mean wiser.
In the latest outrageous comedy Dirty Grandpa, an uptight lawyer (Zac Efron) who is about to get married gets roped into taking his recently widowed grandfather (Robert De Niro) to Florida. From there, he gets pulled into a drug fuelled adventure through Spring Break by his grandpa’s desire to get back out there.
The story here is more solid than expected, taking a few surprising twists and turns as we explore De Niro’s character Dick. Robert De Niro gives a good performance as maybe the film’s only developed character; whilst we learn plenty about Dick’s background in the Armed Forces, Zac Efron’s character Jason is surprisingly one-dimensional and clichéd, having given up the exciting life of photography for a career at a law firm and a marriage to a boring woman. The relationship between Jason and Dick occasionally moved into almost heartfelt territory, giving us a glimpse of the message the film was trying to convey – to live a full, fun life whilst you have the chance, and that we can learn from the elderly – but it failed to deliver anything new on such a common theme. The supporting characters of Shadia and Lenore (Zoey Deutch and Aubrey Plaza) were also left underdeveloped, though this impacted Deutch more than Plaza; crazier characters like Lenore can withstand less dimension, but Shadia and Jason’s relationship felt so stereotypical and shallow due their lack of background. This imbalance in characterisation made the film’s story not quite interesting enough to stand up on its own, forcing it to lean more on its comedy.
And Dirty Grandpa did have some genuinely funny moments, but most – if not all – of the humour felt cheap, full of sex jokes and drug-induced gags that didn’t fight hard for our laughter. Most of the humour actually came from the delivery; Efron and De Niro have surprising comedic chemistry, and their partnership pulled a few of the lamer jokes into funny territory. Plaza’s brilliant comedic timing shone through in her role as Lenore, her deadpan delivery working very well with her outrageous character, giving some relief to the one-note jokes she was written. Such good comedic timing from the cast did make some of the jokes pretty funny, and the film does have a fun feel to it. However, there was a severe lack of witty humour, leaving the other jokes to be fleeting and, at times, cringe-worthy – a scene in which Jason and his fiancée Meredith (Julianne Hough) sing an over-the-top duet is, I’m sure, meant to be funny, but was far too reminiscent of Zac Efron’s High School Musical days, leaving the audience focusing on that, and not an actually funny, sexy Zac.
More than anything, Dirty Grandpa felt underdeveloped – like it could have been a better comedy and story, more like Efron’s earlier comedic outing in Bad Neighbours. Though Efron and De Niro had great chemistry, the rest of the film seemed to fall short in most aspects – characterisation, plotline and humour – allowing the viewer a good laugh, yet nothing to feel properly entertained by.
With such a great cast, here’s my list of my five favourite films starring the cast of Dirty Grandpa:
- Parks and Recreation – Aubrey Plaza
- The Intern – Robert De Niro
- The Lucky One – Zac Efron
- Community – Donald Glover
- Bad Neighbours – Zac Efron