I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I laughed more than I thought I would at the crass comedy “Dirty Grandpa.” But the fun ended 15 minutes in, because the same gags began to recycle throughout the movie. You can only take so much of a randy Robert De Niro joking about “taking a number 3” or other stuff that rhymes with truck that I can’t repeat. Let’s just say all Grandpa wants to do is truck, truck, truck.
In a nutshell, De Niro, the grandfather in the movie’s title, is on spring break in Daytona with his stiff and square grandson, Jason (Zac Efron), who’s wedding to the uptight Meredith (Julianne Hough) is days away.
Jason is wound so tight that one character calls him a “Mitt Romney Terminator.” Grandpa makes it his mission to course-correct Jason’s life. Circumstances send Jason on the road with Grandpa, who calls the pink Mini Cooper they’re riding in a “giant tampon.” Cue every misogynistic, micro-bikini, pedophilic, geriatric, and overall buffoonery of spring break cliché you can think of. About the only clever line is a shot at Florida’s lax gun laws.
Along the way, Grandpa and Jason meet cute with a beautiful flower-child, Shadia (Zoey Deutch), a girl who’s the 180-degree opposite of the self-absorbed Meredith. Lucky for Grandpa, her friend, the sex-pot, Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), has a thing for card-carrying AARP members.
How these two actors got trapped in this movie escapes me. A duo of first-timers – writer John M. Phillips and director Dan Mazer – pound another nail into the coffin that holds De Niro’s crumbling career. Efron’s young enough to recover and proved in “Neighbors” that there is something of substance behind those beautiful blues.
The filmmakers try to infuse some half-hearted redemption story into the mix, but it never registers past eye-rolling because you don’t give a truck about these underdeveloped characters and their cookie-cutter sidekicks. Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman is the gay friend, because every two-bit comedy needs to include barbs about homosexuals. Adam Pally is mildly amusing as oafish cousin Nick.
Efron gets nearly naked and does the Macarena. It’s kinda awesome. What isn’t, is watching a horny De Niro creeping on Plaza’s sex-hungry co-ed. Gag me with a spoon.
Dana Barbuto may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.
Cast Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Zoey Deutch, Julianne Hough.
(R for crude sexual content throughout, graphic nudity, and for language and drug use.)