“You’re a dirty old man,” Lamont once said to his pop on the popular comedy “Sanford and Son” back in the more diverse days of entertainment. Grizzly Fred agreed, “And I’m gonna be one till I’m a dead old man.”
That’s right, just when you thought that old caricature was relegated to the decade that gave us Billy Beer and disco, out pops Robert De Niro’s junk in the wild comedy “Dirty Grandpa.”
Someone should explain to the star of classic films like “Raging Bull,” “Taxi Driver,” and “The Godfather Part II” the joys of stamp collecting. Or fishing. Or scrapbooking. Something, anything, to occupy his time so he doesn’t have to take every. single. script. that passes his desk.
Some roles are just beneath him. Like Dick, who guilts his stiff grandson (Zac Efron) into driving him down to Boca to golf but instead coerces the young lawyer (“I get to handle SEC compliance”) into a weekend of unapologetic debauchery at Daytona Beach during spring break the day after burying his loving wife of 40 years.
Pretty boy Efron is a better actor than he gets credit for and is quite at home with comedy. He was hysterical as the president of the out-of-control fraternity that moved next door to Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne in 2014’s “Neighbors.” (Those holding their breath for a sequel to that one can finally exhale: “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” opens in May.)
Here, he’s the polar opposite, on the cusp of a marriage of his own (to the wrong woman, of course), which makes “Dirty Grandpa” a cross between “Scent of a Woman” and “The Hangover.” Then mix in an obsession with, err, privates, from directorDan Mazer, who partnered with Sacha Baron Cohen to bring us (inflict on us?) “Borat” and a picture starts to emerge.
Ninety minutes of pervin’ on co-eds, but wait, there’s more. A hackneyed two-dimensional subplot is handed to you. No thinking on the audience’s part is required. Efron is De Niro’s redemption project — when he was a teen, Efron wanted to be a photographer and see the world but has long since fell in line at his father’s firm.
For me, it was Robert De Niro limbo. How low could he go? Well, as it turns out, gangster rap karaoke was pretty much the basement.
What happened to this guy?
Some laughs but more regrets.
My grandfather enjoyed an occasional stogie and pinched Grandma’s behind to get a laugh when he knew we were watching. But that’s nothing compared to these cinematic pappys:
Alan Arkin (pound for pound one of the funniest actors of all time) won an Oscar for his foul-mouthed heroin junkie in the charming 2006 comedy, “Little Miss Sunshine.”
We tend to remember Charlie Bucket’s grandfather fondly because he spent his tobacco money for Charlie’s chance to win a golden ticket in the 1971 children’s classic, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” But the old man almost cost Charlie the whole thing when he talked the impressionable kid into playing around in the Bubble Room. Yea, you forgot about that.
John Huston was Belinda Palmer’s father. Grandfather. Father. Grandfather. Forget it, it’s “Chinatown.”
He extorted, ordered murders and otherwise provided for his family (because that’s the most important thing). How was he repaid? His grandson ran him around the tomato plants until he dropped dead then sprayed insecticide on the body to make sure.
Faking cancer to get back into their lives, Gene Hackman was a bad father but an even worse grandfather in the 2001 Wes Anderson comedy, “The Royal Tenenbaums.”