Review: It Looks Crappy, But ‘Dirty Grandpa’ is Kind of a Great Comedy

It looked like just another crappy comedy. Robert De Niro has been in some of the greatest films of all time, but his modern comedies are mostly rubbish and include abominations like Little Fockers. As for wee Zac Efron, he’s laughable when he’s trying to be serious and the unfunny guy that comedians use to be funny in comedies. On its surface, Dirty Grandpa looked to be that tired set-up of simply an old person acting like they’re not supposed to, being crass and therefore that’s funny. The first reviews seemed to confirm this (for example, Deadline’s The Worst Film Of Robert De Niro’s Career (Or Maybe Anybody’s)). Yet somehow, Dirty Grandpa is not just another crappy comedy. It’s kind of a great comedy.

The storyline is indeed weak and includes that cringe-worthy third act turn for the dramatic where the whole thing morphs into being about being true to yourself or some horseshit. But the majority of the gags hit their marks and hit them hard. I laughed more in this than I have in any Hollywood comedy for quite some time, mostly thanks to Dan Mazer’s wickedly filthy script.

In addition to the jokes, there’s a lot to enjoy in Dirty Grandpa. There’s a solid cameo by Danny Glover, kicked off with an awesome introduction involving TV show Alf. Then there’s a Terminator reference, a Starship Troopers quote and an outstanding Andre the Giant anecdote.

There’s casual racism and homophobia played for laughs, but it’s later rectified in a bizarre way, climaxing with De Niro saying the N-word(!). For all the time the film takes to smooth over that stuff, however, it is unapologetically sexist throughout. It’s relentlessly low-brow, juvenile schoolboy humour and I feel somewhat guilty for enjoying it as much as I did. But it does what it does bloody well, De Niro and Aubrey Plaza in particular are great and I laughed my ass off.

‘Dirty Grandpa’ Movie Times