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Film review: Dirty Grandpa – debauchery, De Niro and a cop-out conclusion

Zac Efron gets the laughs in this crude but far from subversive comedy that ultimately lacks the courage of its convictions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 January, 2016, 12:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 January, 2016, 12:01pm

Never mind Meet The Parents, Robert De Niro’s latest gruesome attempt at comedy is all about the generation above. From an early scene as the two-time Oscar winner pleasures himself in front of a porno, Dirty Grandpa is exactly what you’d expect.

De Niro plays the aptly named Dick, a recent widower desperate for one last fling. Cajoling his clean-cut soon-to-be-married grandson Jason (Zac Efron) to drive him to Florida, he is soon partying with a crop of college grads, including Aubrey Plaza’s nigh-on nymphomaniac. With this saucy septuagenarian masquerading as a college professor as he and Jason arrive in Daytona Beach, the parties get wet’n’wild – all crack-smoking, granny-kissing hedonism.

But directed by Dan Mazer (I Give It A Year), it’s nowhere near subversive as, say, Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. To be fair, there are some funny scenes, not least the aftermath of one shebang that sees Jason left naked by the ocean, with offensive tattoos inked on his head and angry parents in the vicinity. Efron has a good knack for physical comedy and he gets the laughs.

If this were all Dirty Grandpa was – like a wrinkled American Pie – that would be fine. But the final act has to go and spoil it, with Jason having second thoughts about his impending marriage and Dick wanting to make up for his own shortcomings as a father. Keen to follow the Judd Apatow formula – crude gags plus big-hearted sentiment – Dirty Grandpa winds up losing the courage of its gross-out convictions. Offensive in all the wrong ways.

Dirty Grandpa opens on January 21