Director: Dan Mazer
Stars: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron
2 (out of 5) Globes
There’s a strain of comedy where the humor comes from repetition. By simply saying or doing the same thing over and over (and over and over and over) again, the very act of persistent and aggressive recurrence itself becomes the joke. Radiolab once did an entire episode about repetition, which began with Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler’s very funny, very maddening bit where the latter keeps repeating a circular ditty with the words “Kristen Schaal is a horse!” while the former dances maniacally. It starts out funny, becomes unfunny, then becomes funny again, and over and over again.
“Dirty Grandpa” is sort of like that. It’s a terrible film — poorly made, sloppily written and boasting roughly 10,000 jokes that are, ultimately, the same not very good joke. That joke is: Robert De Niro, two-time Oscar-winning thespian, one of the finest actors of his generation, says and does super duper lowbrow garbage. The day after his wife’s funeral, De Niro’s old-timer heads to Daytona Beach with his grandson, Jason (Zac Efron), to cruise for tail. This isn’t one of those nice, funny geezer comedies (like “Last Vegas,” also featuring De Niro) where his prey is age-appropriate (or thereabouts). He wants collegiate ass. Along the way he deploys endless jokes about dicks, pussy (usually to emasculate his uptight relative), gay people, black people and also, for equal opportunity, bros. His name, of course, is “Dick.”
Unlike the Schall/Braunohler gag, “Dirty Grandpa”'s single joke isn't funny to begin with. In fact, the film starts off with the worst variation it has: the sight of De Niro naked in a recliner, ’bating to porn, his Malcolm Gladwell obscured by a Kleenex box, “Austin Powers”-style. It’s not the dirtiest thing the actor has done onscreen; in Bernardo Bertollucci’s 1976 epic “1900,” he and Gerard Depardieu received an actual, real double handie from the same actress. That was art; this is low-hanging fruit. It can only go up from its first gag, and “Dirty Grandpa,” as Mel Brooks famously said of “The Producers,” rises below vulgarity, albeit not in any particularly funny way. It’s the same variation on the same dumb-bad joke repeated every couple seconds during a movie that’s at least 20 (or 102) minutes too long.