Dirty Grandpa – Film Review

The premise has potential, but the execution is painfully unfunny

Robert De Niro and Zac Efron. It’s not really a pairing anyone had been crying out for, but it’s one that could have worked with good material. Efron is a much better actor than he’s given credit for, particularly in comedy, and De Niro can be funny, even if his comedic skills are meagre compared to his dramatic genius. This script serves neither of them.

You can see what it was going for. De Niro plays Dick, a recently widowed man who asks his uptight grandson Jason (Efron) to drive him to Florida just before the younger man’s wedding to an awful woman (Julianne Hough). On this road trip the old man tries to show his grandson how he’s wasting his youth and should be getting drunk and getting laid. So De Niro will act like the horny teenager and Efron will be the fusty old codger. Potentially interesting. Except neither of them is good at that. They’re both giving it all they’ve got but De Niro being lewd just comes off creepy (he has way too many thoughts on his grandson’s penis) and Efron seems so keen to revert to the fratboy roles he’s been playing recently that he just keeps taking his clothes off.

It’s not lazy in its efforts to make you laugh, trying constantly for a punchline, but there’s a lot of returning to the same gag, be it the joke that a young woman (Plaza) wants De Niro to have kinky sex with her, or that Efron ends up in prison and is given a silly costume, or that Efron’s dad has a small dick. And none of those are hugely funny the first time. It also, with despairing frequency for 2016, opts for the ‘you’re gay’ punchline. That’s a strange mix of old-fashioned and boringly childlish.

There’s a funny idea in here about the clash of liberal baby-boomers and their more worried millennial grandchildren – Grandma did it to very different but much better effect last year – but there’s not a lot that’s funny about the execution.