Call it a dissenting opinion if you must, but Dirty Grandpa has sporadic moments of hilarity: the spontaneous “USA! USA!” chant that erupts after an out-of-his-mind Zac Efron announces to spring breakers that he’s just unknowingly smoked crack, or Aubrey Plaza commanding as foreplay that Robert De Niro, as the grandfather of the title, “Tell me the buttons on your remote control are so small you can’t find Fox News.” Efron’s Jason doesn’t want to be at a kegger with his semi-estranged pop-pop, but unless you actively resist Dirty Grandpa, you may occasionally join him in having a good time against your better judgment.
The setup doesn’t inspire much confidence. In the week between his wife’s funeral and his grandson’s ill-advised nuptials, Dick (De Niro) hatches a plan: He demands that the groom-to-be drive him from their home in Atlanta to Daytona Beach so they can experience the carnal pleasures of spring break together. All of this invites comparisons to both Sideways (last-hurrah-before-a-wedding road trip) and Bad Grandpa (intergenerational male bonding), most of them unfavorable. A one-trick pony for its entire first act, Dan Mazer’s raunchy comedy relies entirely on the tension between motormouth vulgarity (De Niro) and straight-laced propriety (Efron).
The stunt-casting hijinks know no bounds, with Jason repeatedly alluding to his expertise in SEC compliance and LLC agreements (a bit that somehow gets funnier each time) while Dick performs a karaoke rendition of Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” to impress the college student he’s hellbent on sleeping with (Plaza). Though many of these self-consciously crude jokes don’t land, those that do are the life of the party. Late-era De Niro forever, y’all.