Dirty Grandpa may live up to its name – it’s dirty, and it prominently features a grandpa – but that’s just about the only thing to which this movie can actually live up. It’s frequently vulgar in an attempt to be edgy, but Dirty Grandpa doesn’t actually hit edgy. Just obnoxiously tone-deaf.
Just after his wife passes away, Dick (Robert De Niro) ropes his grandson, young lawyer Jason (Zac Efron), to drive him from Atlanta to Boca Raton for an annual golf trip. Very quickly, though, Dick reveals his true intentions: to get laid for the first time in 15 years, and to get Jason to realize his job and impending wedding to Meredith (Julianne Hough) are not good for him. To do both, they make a detour towards spring break in Daytona Beach, where Dick pursues Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), a coed who’s into older men, and Jason reconnects with Shadia (Zoey Deutch), a former college classmate.
It’s clear that at least a few of the players here are having a blast shooting their material. De Niro embraces Dick’s insanity, and Plaza’s take on Lenore plays up the horny and drunken aspects of the character. That ability doesn’t extend far beyond those two, though, with Efron’s Jason only working in some way when he’s going crazy (though this could just be Efron’s lack of clothing working some magic).
It doesn’t help that there’s barely a story here. The film’s structure is minimal to make room for a series of raunchy jokes and gags, most of which only seem to exist to try and shock audiences. The targets of the “jokes” don’t pull punches when selecting topics, either, but that just leads to things like Dick rapidly using various forms of “butt-fucking” as an insult in the span of a minute. It’s too lazy to be offensive, even if it’s still homophobic.
Worst of all, though, the film actually attempts to tack on an ending that could only work if audiences cared at all about the characters, after spending most of its running time not giving a damn about character development. Because it’s such a jarring tonal shift, it makes the final act feel like it’s running for double the time.
Dirty Grandpa wants to be edgy. It also wants a sentimental end, to make the experiences mean something. But it earns absolutely none of it. The only way I could recommend seeing this, outside of a burning desire to see Zac Efron’s body on a big screen, is if you see it with students from UGA or Georgia Tech, since this film mixes the name of one of the universities with a mascot closely resembling its rival. Alumni reactions to that mix will almost certainly be more enjoyable.