Sunday, January 24, 2016

Review: Dirty Grandpa

I do not own the above image.  Copyright Lionsgate Films.  All Rights Reserved.

            Another January, another gross out comedy involving a soon-to-be married man.  This time, Jason Kelly (Efron) is a corporate lawyer in Atlanta about to marry Meredith (Hough), the daughter of a powerful lawyer.  A week before the wedding, Jason’s grandmother passes away and has to transport his grieving grandfather Dick (De Niro) to their summer condo in Boca Raton.  Dick has other plans.
            What you see in the commercials for DIRTY GRANDPA in mostly in the first 20-25 minutes.  What the marketing leaves out is the bare-bones, formula story revolving around Jason falling for Shadia (Deutch), a former classmate of his who is a hipster photographer/Manic Pixie Dream Girl.  Jason is continually foiled by Shadia’s dude-bro boyfriend & his goofy-looking henchman.  These two underdeveloped buffoons exist solely to be subjects of De Niro’s insults and to create the third act tension this formula requires only to completely disappear immediately after without explanation, showing just how important first-time credited writer John M. Phillips feels a competent story is to a comedy.  The other significant story is that of Jason’s fiancée’s almost constant surveillance of him and her total devotion to their wedding.  Such highlights from her include choosing tie colors during the funeral and calling 37 times in a morning to talk with the rabbi.  Hough’s shrill bride-to-be is not as infuriating & pathetic as other bridezillas as of late but this character needs to be retired.  These two battles drag down to almost unwatchable status.
            As little effort puts into his story, the three of the main actors try their best to keep the movie rolling & the audience entertained.  Zack Efron continues to show that there is something behind that pretty face & those abs.  He has the charisma & comedic timing that Adam Sandler would kill for.  I’ve seen Robert De Niro phone it in more times that should be legal.  But as the titular character, he appears to be having the time of his life.  You can see it in his eyes that De Niro cherishes the opportunity to say these vulgar insults & he never holds back.  But the runaway star of the movie is Aubrey Plaza as the young object of De Niro’s affection.  Imagine April Ludgate-Dwyer if she grew up watching teen sex comedies.  Plaza has that perfect, uninhibited comedic timing in a movie in desperate need of her talents.
            Make no mistake: I am not recommending you see this movie.  Director Dan Mazer (BORAT co-writer) doesn’t have nearly the talent to combine all these elements into a coherent movie.  Are there laughs?  Yes.  But most of the humor is in the form of an old man spewing vulgar insults at everyone and genuine laughs are few & far between.  There’s Jason Mantzoukas’ Pam, a tourist supply shop owner/drug dealer/DJ whose mere presence caused migraines.  Repeatedly he sweet talks his way out of being arrested by Mo Collins & Henry Zembrowski, two standard idiot local cops who don’t induce any positive emotions from the audience.  Danny Glover has one, two-minute scene that is supposed to add to the title character’s pressing need to live life to the fullest but it just comes off as a time filler   Plus, there is a gay black male character who does a tightrope walk with line between being an offensive stereotype and just a bad character.  And don’t get me started on the third act climaxes followed by an unearned sentimental moments that cause the proceedings to limp to the end credits.
            The actors are game but the writer & director are just way out of their league.  DIRTY GRANDPA is a three week rewrite away from being a very good movie instead of the uneven jumble we get here.


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