Review: 'Dirty Grandpa' is just dirty

Jason (Zac Efron) and Richard (Robert De Niro) in a flex off. (Shaw Organisation)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes at The views expressed are his own.

Secret ending? Sort of, mid-credits.

Running time: 102 minutes (~1.75 hours)

‘Dirty Grandpa’ is a comedy about the escapades of a grown man and his grandfather. When his grandmother passes away, he goes on a road trip with his grandfather and finds there’s more to the old man than he thought. It stars Robert De Niro (Richard Kelly), Zac Efron (Jason Kelly), Zoey Duetch (Shadia), Aubrey Plaza (Lenore), Dermot Mulroney (David Kelly), and Julianne Hough (Meredith Goldstein). It is rated M-18.

“Dirty Grandpa” is as good a title as any for this film, which could also have been titled “Exasperated Grandson.” It’s hard to expect much from a film that promises so little to begin with, but “Dirty Grandpa” still manages to disappoint. To be charitable, there’s a vague adherence to a plot and some semblance of structure, but the worst part is that it’s not even funny. Keep your expectations low for “Dirty Grandpa,” then drop them another notch.

Jason and Richard on the street. (Shaw Organisation)


Attempt at a message

By the end of the film, Richard (the grandpa) has taught Jason (the grandson) a valuable life lesson, which results in the usual corny happy ending for all. It’s a surprisingly decent way to tie everything together, and gives Richard a plausible reason to be the “Dirty Grandpa” that is. That’s the only time the film even comes close to being watchable.

Jason and Richard in bed?! (Shaw Organisation)


Richard is horribly irritating

There’s dirty, and then there’s just plain obnoxious. Richard falls into the latter category, and doesn’t even suffer once for all the humiliation that he inflicts on his grandson. The film sets him up to be this insufferable Mary Sue that has all sorts of superhuman abilities. You can’t identify with him because he has no flaws, he doesn’t struggle and there’s simply no depth to his character.

Meredith is just as annoying

The poor main character, Jason, is plagued with so much frustration in his life. His fiancee combines every bad girlfriend stereotype into one pretty blonde ball who looks too old for him. Unlike Richard, who serves a purpose in Jason’s life, Meredith is there as an obstacle, which means she has no redeeming qualities at all. There’s more personality in a potato than this character.

Jokes are lewd but not funny

The whole point of making off-colour jokes is that the subject matter is already funny by default. But “Dirty Grandpa” can pull off a disgusting scene without it coming close to being humourous. That’s how bad the so-called funnies are in this film. What’s the point of dirty jokes if they’re not funny?

Zac Efron only has one expression

I know he’s not in this film for his theatrical talent, but I expected Zac Efron to have more than one expression (exasperated). For someone who’s pretty buff, he gets pushed around so much its’s unbelievable. His angry scenes look like the petulant tantrums of Kylo Ren without a lightsaber, and the only time you truly buy into his acting is when he’s intoxicated. He’s really just there for his body, but that’s not enough to build an entire film on.

Jason and Richard argue. (Shaw Organisation)

“Dirty Grandpa” irritates with loud and annoying characters and a colossal waste of bodily humour. You’d really only watch this for Zac Efron, but there’s the Internet for that…

Should you watch this for free? If you want to see Zac Efron and Robert De Niro with their shirts off.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Good heavens, no.

“Dirty Grandpa” opens in cinemas 28 January, 2016 (Thursday).