I have seen many films, some good, some bad, some mind-boggling in their awfulness. I can safely say though that no film has ever been delivered to me in a package that contained a condom, a pill bottle full of Tic-Tacs and an H&M bikini top. But when I received Dirty Grandpa, now on Blu-ray from Lionsgate, that little goodie bag came spilling out. Oh dear, I thought, gazing upon the strange pile of trinkets. This does not bode well.
Dirty Grandpa is one of those films that makes one ask some age old questions, like “Why?” and “Did they read the script?” and “How much is Robert De Niro getting paid for this?” True, the latter question is one that many of us are asking nowadays, but there is still nothing quite so painful as watching the erstwhile star of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Godfather Part II once again lower his bar to such depths that he needn’t even raise his foot to step over it. De Niro is still a good actor when he wants to be, so I assume that he realized he did not even need to try with Dirty Grandpa.
The plot, such as it is, involves nice, boring guy Jason (Zac Efron, doing his damnedest, bless his heart) taking his elderly grandfather (De Niro) down to Florida, following the funeral of his beloved grandmother. But now Grandpa just wants to get his freak on, and so forces a detour to Daytona Beach to party it up during Spring Break and find some nubile young lady to make him feel young, just one last time. Jason, meanwhile, gets to liven up a bit, discover his inner bad boy, do some drugs, chase some girls, learn some lessons about family and…you know what? I don’t care.
I don’t care because Dirty Grandpa doesn’t care – not about its characters, and certainly not about its viewers. While bad taste comedy can be an art in itself, Dirty Grandpa fails to land any of its jokes, despite peppering the script with disgusting non sequiturs, scatological details, swear words and more than a few un-PC comments about gay people, women, African-Americans, WASPs, Jews, pedophiles, stoners and frat boys. There are funny moments, one of them being a naked Zac Efron doing the Macarena, but those sight gags do not make for a particularly amusing film. A major running gag is De Niro trying to jam his thumb up Zac Efron’s ass. Hilarious, right?
This Blu-Ray release is the “Unrated” version of the film, which presumably means that the theatrical release had a slightly shorter runtime – a great mercy on those who went to the theater. Most of the scenes with bits added are fairly self-evident, though it might have helped (for those with an abiding interest in this film) to provide info on where the extended scenes come in and what lines were cut (or not) for the theatrical release.
The purpose behind most Blu-rays is to either present the film in all its 1080p Hi-Def glory, or to provide some interesting features that will justify the extra cash, or both. Comedies like Dirty Grandpa don’t really need the high definition, though it looks and sounds perfectly fine. And for those who actually enjoy the film, the Special Features come thick and fast. There’s a filmmakers’ commentary, which gives some insight into why director Dan Mazer (a man who acted as a producer on Sacha Baron-Cohen’s Borat, Bruno, and directed episodes of Da Ali G Show) thought it was a good idea to make this film. Bizarrely, the commentary actually made me like the movie even more, as the filmmakers evidently took it more seriously than what appears onscreen.
Other features include a surprisingly in-depth making-of featurette, “Lessons in Seduction” from Aubrey Plaza character Lenore, and a short faux “reality series” audition “Daytona Heat,” featuring two of the more entertaining secondary characters in the film. These little snippets manage to make Dirty Grandpa look more interesting than it actually is while also hammering home the fact that there are good comedians hiding in the shadows of this wretched film.
Truth be told, I find it hard to even summon contempt for Dirty Grandpa. It’s far too lazy to be contemptible and too boring to be offensive. As it moves from one predictable joke to the next, it even begins to recognize how meaningless it has become. Like an aging frat boy who suddenly undergoes an existential crisis in the middle of a beer bong, it takes a step back, wondering what it has done with its runtime. Has it really wasted the best minutes of its life on masturbation jokes and boob shots? Can it ever get those minutes back? No, it can’t – and, unfortunately, neither can we.
Dirty Grandpa is far too boring to be shocking, too rote to be offensive, and too stupid to be a movie.