Robert DeNiro Plays a Grandfather Gone Wild in the Lewd ‘Dirty Grandpa’

The stereotypical grandfather dotes over his grandson (or granddaughter), showing him or her with the kind of fawning attention that parents often eschew. You know the kind. Even though he initially appears to be a mild-mannered and loving man, Dirty Grandpa's Richard "Dick" Kelly (Robert DeNiro) isn’t your stereotypical grandfather. Not by a long shot. 

In the wake of his wife’s death, Richard goes on an epic bender with his unsuspecting grandson Jason (pretty boy Zac Efron). That’s the premise of Dirty Grandpa, the lewd comedy that opens areawide today. While DeNiro holds nothing back (early in the movie, Jason walks in while the old man is watching porn and masturbating), the film loses its footing in the final half as it attempts to wrap things up with some traditional family values and all the trappings of a love story.

Initially, Jason balks when his grandfather tells him he needs a lift to his vacation rental in Florida. After all, Jason is about to get married, and he works for his father’s law firm. So taking Richard to Florida is a major inconvenience, especially given the fact that Richard appears fit to drive (he maintains his license has been suspended).

Once they hit the road, it’s apparent Richard has an ulterior motive. “I need to fuck,” he tells Jason while pumping his arm like he’s some kind of frat boy. And like a good fratboy, he flirts with every woman they meet, hitting on the horny Lenore (Aubrey Plaza) even though she’s half his age. And he nearly decapitates Jason with a golf club when he calls him "grandpa" in the presence of some lovely co-eds on the golf course. He later accuses him of being a "cockblocker." 

Ultimately, Richard and Jason follow Lenore and her friends to Daytona Beach where they party hearty. Jason does so many drugs, he winds up naked on the beach (and then in jail) while Richard continues his quest to hook up with Lenore. Jason’s wife (Julianne Hough) doesn’t take kindly to their escapade though Jason does his best to keep her in the dark. And Jason strikes up a romance with Shadia (Zoey Deutch), a hippie chick that was a former classmate of his.

There’s something mildly sexist about the premise here that Richard is out to free Jason from his domineering wife-to-be. But that’s the least of the film’s problems. With its series of intentionally offensive sketches (including one in which Richard drops the “n” word during a wild night of karaoke), director Dan Mazer strives to deliver a film of Hangover-like proportions but sorely misses the mark. DeNiro’s Richard Kelly is such a creep, he makes Johnny Knoxville’s Bad Grandpa look like a saint by comparison. And the fairytale ending embraces so many clichés about romantic love and family bonds, it feels out of sync with the rest of the film.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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