Reviews: Is 'Dirty Grandpa' Robert DeNiro's Worst Movie Ever?

If you have somehow avoided the deluge of advertisements for the Robert DeNiro-Zac Efron raunchy vehicle “Dirty Grandpa,” consider yourself blessed and spread your luck to those in need. But for the rest of us poor, lost souls who have had to endure watching DeNiro say things like, “Party til you’re pregnant!” and sexually squirt sunscreen onto Aubrey Plaza’s chest on both the Internet and television, our only salvation is to be able to read reviews from the poor souls paid to watch and review the film. The result is pretty much what you expect: “Dirty Grandpa” is unfunny, crass for the sake of pure shock value, tedious, and some argue, a blight on humanity. Though many of DeNiro’s late period acting choices have been questionable, this may prove to be the nadir of his career, not to mention Efron’s as well. Follow the links below to read the scathing reviews of what’s sure to be one of the worst films of 2016.

Reviews of “Dirty Grandpa”

Mike Ryan, Uproxx

This is a very disturbing and difficult movie to watch. Someday, scholars will teach classes, warning them of what can happen when evil wins. When we watch the scene when Zac Efron’s Jason Kelly wakes up on the beach, wrecked after a night of smoking crack, only wearing a thong with a big stuffed bee attached, it’s tragic enough. But then when a small child wants to play with the bee and that child’s father thinks the child is performing a lewd sexual act on Efron, it makes us want to stop the movie, remove it from its projector, and throw it in the river. Then we light that river ablaze in all its glory. But that’s the easy way out. This film needs to be studied so that what’s depicted here can never, ever happen again.

Dirty Grandpa
 is The Most Important Movie Ever Made.

(Too Long; Didn’t Read version: Dirty Grandpa is the worst movie I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. Burn it.)

Jesse Hassenger, The A.V. Club

Efron is supposed to have buddy chemistry with De Niro, but the only sparks in the movie come from De Niro’s flirtation with Aubrey Plaza. More than anyone else in the cast, Plaza embraces the fact that she’s playing a ridiculous construct issuing filthy, sometimes absurdist one-liners and rejoinders — a non-character who might as well disappear in a puff of smoke every time she’s out of frame. Plaza’s seeming contempt for the project energizes her performance, and her scene partner; she and De Niro appear ready to run away together into a better movie. Apart from Plaza, the movie is funniest when portraying Florida as a lawless dirtbag playground. This is only a minor thread, though; the filmmakers seem more eager to give Dick permission to gay-bash and use racial slurs through a series of mostly inexplicable and unfunny plot turns. While Mazer and Phillips focus on these convolutions, the movie’s stupid mistakes pile up. Some are minor but persistent, like the way photography enthusiasts Jason and Shadia speak reverently of “Time” magazine when it seems like they actually mean “Life.” Others are more distracting, like a weird, sloppy time compression that has heavy wedding planning, an actual wedding, spring break, and college graduation all taking place within a single week in March. All of the worst bits — a cartoonishly villainous fiancée, Jason’s clumsily developed interest in photography, Dick’s apparent invincibility — come together for an insanely drawn-out wedding-disruption scene so agonizingly long and terribly blocked that it almost works as experimental parody. That incompetence combined with the occasional burst of disreputable laughter makes “Dirty Grandpa” oddly lively for a movie that’s largely terrible.

Leah Greenblatt, EW

The ultimate message, of course, is supposed to be that Jason just has to loosen up to realize he needs to lose the soulless job and shrew fiancee and discover his real destiny, while Dick gets his late-life dreams fulfilled by a drunk twentysomething with daddy issues. Some of the cameos (like Jason Mantzoukas as a giddily amoral drug dealer and Adam Pally as Jason’s stoned, cornrowed cousin) are intermittently amusing. (Danny Glover, completely wasted as Dick’s old army buddy, not so much.) And a few of the jokes really are funny. Mostly though they’re just dumb: broad, crass, and depressingly repetitive. You’ll get to see Efron’s butt a lot, if that’s what you came for; it’s real, and it’s spectacular, even if the script’s endless jokes about him looking like a lesbian are not. There could have been something sort of scamp-ish and charming about all this — two generations brought together to learn from each other and bond and maybe have some PG-13 fun. Instead, “Dirty Grandpa” feels like spending 100-plus minutes with a scatalogical toddler, proudly showing you what he made in his diaper. Don’t look if you don’t have to.

Inkoo Kang, The Wrap

Poor Efron, meanwhile, is put through the degradation wringer, as if he has to do penance for being so pretty. In between being called a lesbian repeatedly, his character has a swastika made of gushing dicks drawn on his forehead, wears clothes with large stains of various bodily fluids, and gets violated with a vodka bottle. (Here’s some free advice for Efron: If they’re laughing at you, it probably means they don’t respect you.) Unsurprisingly, then, neither of their characters’ wispy emotional journeys is remotely engaging or believable. Plaza nearly pulls off the film’s only stab at true subversion, channeling the willful weirdness of her “Parks and Recreation” character April Ludgate. When her Lenore finally lands in bed with Grandpa Dick, she asks him to grouse about four o’clock dinners and worsening neighborhoods as foreplay. But Mazer ultimately diminishes Plaza into a collection of jiggling body parts, just like the ogling cameras on ’90s-era MTV from which the film seems to have learned its sense of fun. If nothing else, “Dirty Grandpa” is consistent: it maintains a tone of aggressive charmlessness from start to finish.

Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

That’s “Dirty Grandpa’s” entire comic strategy; turn profanity and bigotry into cheap laughter and then try to forestall any criticism by having other people onscreen say “That’s offensive!” There’s no issue with De Niro and Efron’s effort; both are game for every disgusting line and ludicrous set-piece. But they have less material to work with than Aubrey Plaza’s costume designer. The screenplay by John Phillips contains plenty of vulgarity and few actual jokes; if you’re not amused by the concept of Robert De Niro saying words like “butt-f—” and “smegma,” or several different old guys repeatedly calling Zac Efron a lesbian, don’t expect to laugh much. There are sequences in this film more fantastical than anything in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” In one, Jason awakens from a drug stupor on a beach wearing nothing but a stuffed animal, which a random boy passing by desperately wants to hug, which leads the boy’s father to mistakenly assume Efron is sexually molesting his son. There’s a scene where Robert De Niro recites the names of every Wu-Tang Clan member from memory. The whole connection between Jason and Shadia is baffling; they had a college photography class together, but she’s still in college while he’s already working as a lawyer at his dad’s firm? And then there’s the character of Pam, a drug dealer in Daytona who gleefully shoots up his own souvenir shop and repeatedly worms his way out of jail by sweet-talking the bumbling local cops. Even worse, the part of Pam is played by Jason Mantzoukas, which means we’ll never get the episode of “How Did This Get Made?” this disaster so richly deserves.

Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com

The fact that the relentless barrage of this humor is occasionally punctuated with pointedly insincere homilies wherein “dirty” grandpa De Niro tries to encourage sellout grandson Efron to Follow His Dreams just makes the whole thing that more depressing. The other way the film pushes the envelope is through sheer, contemptuous incoherence. De Niro’s character, Dick, is initially so homophobic and racist that one can actually imagine that he’s a senior citizen Travis Bickle; having been domesticated for forty or so years, now on the death of his wife, he can let loose again, spewing epithets and rancor all the way from Georgia to Daytona Beach. Once Dick and Efron’s Jason run into Jason’s former college pal Shadia (Zoey Deutch, who here seems to be filling the function of “an Isla Fisher type”) and her oversexed pal Lenore (Plaza) and their gay African-American pal Bradley (Jeffrey Bower-Champion), you can take a wild guess who ends up the brunt of Dick’s dickish one-liners. Once the movie backs into a weird corner that skirts the hem of the infamous “mind if we dance with your dates?” scene in “Animal House,” De Niro’s character suddenly turns righteous in the ways of sexual tolerance even as he’s humiliating a rougher black character. The movie’s editing ADD is so severe that the aforementioned roofie-ing gag (actually a variation thereof, with Xanax substituting for Rohypnol, if anybody’s counting) leads into a chugging-contest scene so incoherently edited that the joke, such as it is, has no payoff. As the wisecracking robots on “Mystery Science Theater 3000” used to say, “They just didn’t care.”

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