Movie Review: Dirty Grandpa

IMDB, Dirty Grandpa“Dirty Grandpa” on IMDB

Comedy, 102 Minutes, 2016

A young man is on a path that he wouldn’t have chosen for himself. His passion for photography was abandoned to become a lawyer and follow in his father’s footsteps. His fiancée is controlling and demanding. He’s lost his way. If only there was a crazy old man who could slap him out of his complacency!

Jason (Zac Efron [IMDB]) is that young man and Grandpa Dick (Robert De Niro [IMDB]) is that crazy old man.

Dick’s wife of 40 years has recently died after a prolonged bout with cancer. He asked Jason to drive him from Georgia to his summer home in Florida. The two were very close when Jason was younger, but have grown apart. Dick hopes this will bring them closer together and force Jason to reexamine his choices.

The premise is tried and true and usually fairly easy to pull off. Basically, you shovel in whatever you like as long as you pause every once in a while for an emotional moment. Crazy things happen, other crazy things follow and somehow, despite them, our hero finds true love and an appreciation for the good things in life.

It’s a simple formula, but one that this never seems able to master. The biggest problem is that the characters lack any meaningful motivation. The simple road trip is derailed when they meet Shadia (Zoey Deutch [IMDB]), an old friend of Jason’s, and her horny friend Lenore (Aubrey Plaza [IMDB]).  That gives grandpa a new goal – bang Lenore – but no reason for Jason to follow. He does, for some reason, until he’s finally given a reason of his own, but by then Grandpa’s is all but forgotten.

The story simply doesn’t flow naturally. For example, as expected, the straight-laced Jason ultimately ends up screamingly drunk. He does drugs. He goes wild. He pays for it. Days later, he finds Grandpa smoking weed and says, “Grandpa! That’s a gateway drug!” It feels like the script was dropped and shuffled back together in the wrong order.

De Niro and Efron have a likable, genuine chemistry when it’s allowed to show. Unfortunately much of the script contrives to have them apart from one another for long segments. This makes the few, often contradictory attempts, for them to bond emotionally feel even more false.

This should have been a simple, forgettable romp carried by charm and cliché. Instead it’s a sad waste of De Niro’s significant talent and definite step backwards for Efron. There are a few laughs, of course, but they’re shallow and soulless.


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  1. Sounds like The Intern – what should have been good ends up being a lame collection of nice interactions between the stars and a limp ending.

    1. Very good comparison, actually. Pretty much the best you can say about both of them is that they’re harmless.

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