We will commence with the flensing of DIRTY GRANDPA momentarily. Before we begin, though, a brief summary of the plot of Mel Brooks’ THE PRODUCERS. In that film, more the original rather than the musical remake, we were delighted by the inspired but appalling behavior of producer Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, his hapless accountant turned partner in crime. They came up with a plan to bilk theatrical investors out of money by selling more than 100% of the shares in a sure-fire Broadway flop. That being a comedy in more than name only, things went awry in a piquantly poetic and wickedly entertaining fashion.
I am put in mind of THE PRODUCERS by DIRTY GRANDPA in that this was the script that Max and his partner should have chosen in order to get away with the loot. So atrocious is every aspect of this grotesque opus, that it is an affront not just to comedy, but to humanity as a whole, which is why that species of scam became the most reasonable explanation for how it made it to production, much less a theatrical release. The other possibilities considered were a lost bar bet, and a double-dog dare situation that got out of hand. Let me put it this way, the extended monologue early on describing a very hands-on assist to artificial canine insemination was the least awful of what ensued. Said ensuing includes high-volume farts, suspected pedophilia, and Robert De Niro doing and saying things that can never be unseen or unheard.
He is, of course, the eponymous Grandpa, and he’s just lost the love of his life after 40 years of marriage. After the funeral, he insists that his straight-laced grandson, Jason (Zac Efron), drive him from Atlanta to Boca Raton, and that it be the very next day, since that’s the day he and his late wife always went to Boca. Jason reluctantly agrees, despite being bogged down with work as a corporate lawyer at his father’s firm, and with his upcoming nuptials Meredith (Julianne Hough), a fellow attorney at the firm who obsessed over the finer points of difference between seafoam and pistachio mini-napkins for the rehearsal dinner. Naturally Grandpa is out of control now that he’s single for the first time in four decades, grief being no barrier to going on a booty hunt. Naturally Jason ends up partying at Daytona Beach for Spring Break. Naturally, this being a Zac Efron film, Jason ends up naked on a beach. Well, not quite naked. He’s sporting a bee plushie in a strategic spot, and before the beach scene, we are treated to Jason’s bee dance that involves the ersatz insect looking for, ahem, honey. It’s a LOT less fun than it sounds, though, to be fair, Efron is in terrific shape.
Efron has made an art out of playing against his preternaturally chiseled good looks and going for the laughs, and he continues that trend here. He is stalwartly befuddled and bemused by the libidinous antics of De Niro, as we all are, watching in the same horror that we ourselves feel when, for example, Grandpa engages in the cringingly awful battle of the single-entendre images of coitus with Aubrey Plaza as the nymphet who is hot for senior citizens.
The phrase “jaw-dropping” comes to mind, and not in a good way.
DIRTY GRANDPA is already on the short list for next year’s Razzie Awards. Predictable, unfunny, and remarkable only in that is makes us wonder what inner demons De Niro is working through that would account for his participation in it. A cry for help? Maybe. Instead of watching one of the great actors of our time flail away his talent by declaiming so many name variations, both clinical and slang, of the female’s organs of generation, rent WAG THE DOG and see what he can do with a comedy that is both smart and laugh out loud funny.