Dirty Grandpa

 

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Robert De Niro plays a disgusting bigot in this road trip comedy in which the old man tricks his soon-to-be-wed grandson into driving him to Florida.

 

Following their double-act in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets in 1973, Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel had the world at their feet. They both went on to appear in some of the best – and controversial – films to come out of America. And they both seemed prepared to push the envelope regarding unsympathetic characters. Nineteen years later Harvey Keitel played the title role in Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, as a cop who routinely stole money from crime scenes, degraded young women, snorted (stolen) cocaine and masturbated in the street, among other things. The film was roundly condemned by many critics and Scorsese cited it as one of the best movies of the 1990s. Quite what Scorsese will make of De Niro’s turn in Dirty Grandpa, however, is open to discussion. For a start, Dan Mazer’s film is meant to be a comedy.

 

In his directorial debut, I Give It a Year, the London-born filmmaker extracted some uncomfortable humour from a moment of excruciating humiliation. But at least the incident was played out within the confines of a small family gathering. Here, Mazer takes the essence of the scene and blows it up into a full-scale nuptial débâcle, like a Richard Curtis set piece reinvented by the Farrelly brothers. More problematic is the eponymous boor depicted by De Niro. A day after the funeral of his wife, the grieving pensioner Dick Kelly turns into a potty-mouthed homophobic racist liar obsessed with getting his end away. And, just one week away from his wedding day, the clean-cut Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) is tricked into taking his grandfather on a road trip to Florida.

  

Dirty Grandpa

Robert De Niro applies himself to Aubrey Plaza

 

While there are certain comparisons to be made to the recent Grandma, which secured Lily Tomlin a Golden Globe nomination, fans of the latter should not be suckered into seeing this. Had Ferrara directed Dirty Grandpa, we may have been spared the dick jokes and ultimate schmaltz and had an interesting take on Catholic redemption, but Mazer seems merely interested in the gross-out factor and whacky supporting characters (Jason Mantzoukas' Daytona Beach drug dealer ‘Pamela’ is mortifying). To be fair to Zac Efron, the actor reveals a new degree of comic pluck (he allows himself to be put into some pretty disconcerting situations), and there is one funny line two minutes before the closing credits: “Tell me things were better under Eisenhower.” But then you’d have to endure the whole movie to get the laugh.

  

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Zoey Deutch, Julianne Hough, Dermot Mulroney, Jason Mantzoukas, Henry Zebrowski.

 

Dir Dan Mazer, Pro Bill Block, Jason Barrett, Barry Josephson and Michael Simkin, Screenplay John M. Philips, Ph Eric Alan Edwards, Pro Des William Arnold, Ed Anne McCabe, Music Michael Andrews, Costumes Christie Wittenborn.

 

BillBlock Media/QED International/Josephson Entertainment/Ninjas Runnin' Wild Productions-Lionsgate.

101 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 25 January 2016. Cert. 15.