Born from the former greatness of “High School Musical,” it’s safe to say that Zac Efron’s track record since those days has not been great. The former teenage heartthrob had solid comedic success in 2014 for his movie “Neighbors,” but failed to generate much acclaim for the 2015 bomb “We Are Your Friends.” Continuing down the road of uncertainty, Efron stumbled into the new year with his new role in “Dirty Grandpa,” a raunchy and unapologetic film about one Richard “Dick” Kelly (Robert De Niro) who drags his unwilling grandson, Jason Kelly (Efron), to the beaches of Florida to explore his newfound freedom out-of-wedlock.
If moviegoers were to only see one scene from this film (such as the one where Efron wakes up drunkenly on a beach) instead of the entire thing, they might think the movie is rather good. It’s pretty clear that the makers of “Dirty Grandpa” distract viewers with raucous party scenes and a taste of the good life, but hidden from view is the movie’s inability to contain any sort of intelligent dialogue or acting. Parts can be considered exciting, but most of the story, or lack thereof, remains mundane. To be entirely honest, it feels embarrassing to watch.
The clumsiness of “Dirty Grandpa” comes to a head toward the end of the movie, when Jason ditches his fiancée and runs off with another girl, which is made out to be a quick resolution to the movie. Amidst all the action and swearing, the plot took noticeable twists and turns. Initially it seemed that the only objective was to “experience the single life” once more, but more than halfway through the film, writers decided it would be a great time for Jason to reevaluate his commitment to his obsessive Meredith (Julianne Hough).
Many of us were not lucky enough to appreciate De Niro in the heyday of his acting career, when he was turning out great films such as “Raging Bull” and “The Godfather Part II,” both of which garnered him Academy Awards. To give him credit, surely a man who has starred in more than 90 films would get tired of the commitment it takes to be a great actor. In recent years, De Niro’s work has been focused more on comedy films rather than drama or action thrillers, a true testament to his versatility, yet his ability to flourish in a starring role has been blocked by young and ambitious faces seeking attention from a younger audience. His recent collaborations with actors Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper have kept his career moving, and we will soon see him in a bigger role later in 2016.
While theaters have been chock-full of successful and popular movies so far this January, “Dirty Grandpa” reminds us all what the opposite end of the spectrum looks like. The good news is that it failed so badly in every aspect of filmmaking that it presents a challenge to those trying to make something worse. A remake of Eddie Murphy’s “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” might fair better than this. Seriously, just do yourself a favor and watch Netflix instead.