Finally, a film that will sicken a generation numbed to wantonness by fast food and Judd Apatow comedies. Some will debate the minutiae of the horror that is Dirty Grandpa; none, it can be said, will question its awfulness.
Halfway through Dirty Grandpa, Robert De Niro’s eponymous satryomaniac sits his cock on his sleeping grandson’s pillow. Those eight seconds alone encapsulate just some of the worst qualities this cinematic carbuncle, a lewd-mouthed, Viagra-popping sex comedy, has in store for viewers enticed by the prospect of a ‘filthy’ star vehicle.
Given the big names the studio has parachuted in, one might be left aghast by the instantaneous unsubtlety of the film – within just five minutes, we’ve endured a wank scene and jokes about dog sex. Dirty Grandpa’s plot, it soon transpires, is a gimmick, a ruse, a gambit through the mucus-caked prism of which the apes behind the camera might realise the gross-a-minute reimagining of Scent of a Woman Larry Flynt never got round to doing.
On the eve of his wedding to a Jewish caricature, Jason (Zac Efron), an insufferably priggish lawyer, finds himself roped into his fuckminded pop’s get-laid-quick schemes, culminating in a ludicrous and highly unoriginal jaunt that sees them swallowed up by East Florida’s party milieu. What follows is a series of vignettes, often offensive, contrived without exception and, at turns, just downright revolting.
It would be a dire understatement to profess to a lack of chemistry between the central twosome. Efron is on autopilot throughout; his purpose is the enabling of De Niro, who has, against all odds, sold his soul to a venture more irredeemably putrid than Little Fockers. Whilst Grandpa Dick is left to run amok, fighting teenagers and getting his fingers (and thumbs) into every orifice the Sunshine State has to offer, High School Musical’s former frontman moonlights as the subject of an increasingly squalid string of degradations and cruelties. A stillborn romantic subplot aside, the humiliation is real and without end, from a mistaken incidence of child molestation to gags involving the cum-sullied trousers of a murder victim. The target audience is a mystery for the ages – somebody, somewhere, has made a flick too juvenile for juveniles. There’s something here to offend literally everybody. It’s Pasolini’s 120 Days of Sodom minus the arthouse designs, the closest thing yet to screwball torture porn, and as frankly unbearable as either of those.
Unsurprisingly enough, the movie is racked by a Madonna-whore complex that feels positively medieval. Jason finds a love interest in Shadia (Zoey Deutch), a chaste pixie who functions as little more than a cardboard cut-out; her friend (Aubrey Plaza) is a loose-legged harridan with a fetish for, of all things, dirty grandpas. Dick is a barefaced homophobe, who occupies himself with the unremitting abuse of the girls’ companion (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman); the two’s later reconciliation is wholly unbelievable, a clear post-hoc addition to the script that tries (and fails) to redeem De Niro’s character of his sheer odiousness. The rest of the supporting cast – meat-headed frat boys, a psychopathic cop (Henry Zebrowski), a drug dealer (Jason Mantzoukas) who sells to schoolkids – are bland stoner comedy filler, with little to do but drag this monstrosity out well beyond what should have been its runtime.
There are no jokes, just gratuitousness, and the only substance on offer is crystal meth. Efron’s is a Miley Cyrus act, a woefully misjudged attempt to break with his Magic Kingdom past; his participation is essentially forgiveable. Likewise, Robert De Niro can do very little to ruin this so-called film, an eyesore that was dead long before it went to celluloid, but his very presence on-screen is a conundrum in itself. There is much here to engender illness, images you won’t be able to unsee. Rest assured, those whom survive the stunt cocks and semen stains of Dirty Grandpa will be unable to enjoy Taxi Driver for a very, very long time.
Dirty Grandpa (2016), directed by Dan Mazer, is distributed in the UK by Lionsgate. Certificate 15.