Ostensibly with a movie like Dirty Grandpa, it's Robert De Niro we should feel bad for. Here's a guy who was once the Greatest Actor of His Generation, who had some respite from his terrible recent filmography by teaming up with David O. Russell for the likes of Silver Linings Playbook and Joy. .
But it's not De Niro you should feel bad for in Dirty Grandpa, a movie so poorly made, you'll yearn for Meet the Fockers. De Niro has made his bed over the last decade or so making terrible movies where the sound of a cash register is almost part of the sound design.
It's Aubrey Plaza you should feel bad for in this movie. Or Zoey Deutch. Or Julianne Hough. Or really any other woman who has to come near this movie, in which none of them have anything close to resembling a character.
At least De Niro gets top billing. And probably a sweet paycheck.
De Niro plays Dick, the recently widowed grandpa of Jason (Zac Efron). Dick insists that Jason drive to Florida even though his formerly close grandson is scheduled to get married in a few days time (because of course he is). His intended is the uptight, pearls-wearing Meredith played by a game Hough, who is forced to play the type of character that is hateable only because the leading man - the guy who chose to be with her in the first place - is fated to fall in love with a free spirit who allows him to live the life he's truly meant to. Jason's one true love can only exists if her purpose as a character is to allow him to self-actualize.
But after years of marriage, Dick is ready to let loose (with his dead wife's approval), so he wants to drink, smoke and bed women who are younger than his grandson, much to the surprise of said grandson who thought dear old granddad was really kind of boring. Enter Plaza, a talented comedian who hasn't quite found her niche other than Parks and Recreation, and her two friends, including Efron's love interest Shadia (Lea Thompson's daughter Zoey Deutch). They are destined for true love because they start out disliking each other, but eventually her wild abandon helps him to live.
Plaza spends most of the movie making nasty comments toward De Niro, because she's not really playing a character so much as a one punchline joke that she's better than.
Harping on the female characters, or lack thereof, is easy, especially when the rest of the movie is such a mess. Danny Glover shows up in a wholly inconsequential cameo, and no one bothers to develop any sort of relationship. Characters are introduced as archetypes to serve as jokes and little more.
If Dirty Grandpa does anything, it should be to make you stop weeping for De Niro's lost greatness. He brought this upon himself.
MOVIE REVIEWDirty Grandpa *(Out of four stars) Directed by Dan Mazer. With Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch, Aubrey Plaza. Distributed by Lionsgate.Running time: 1 hour, 42 mins.Parent guide: R (violence, drug use, language, nudity)Playing at: Area theaters.