Trying out something new with my part. I’m gonna try to use the 6W’s (Who, What, Where, When, hoW, and Why) to explain the what and how of the film at hand. With that in mind I’m going to keep my part totally intact rather than throw it to Patrick in the middle. So get prepared for some text.
What?! Zac Efron is roped into driving his foul-mouthed grandpa (Robert De Niro) to Boca the week before his wedding, but gets sidetracked and ends up in Daytona Beach during spring break, much to the dismay of his fiancee.
Why?! The apparent impetus of the film changes throughout because De Niro’s character constantly lies about his intentions. At first it is simply that Robert De Niro needs a ride to his house in Boca… gotta say, not the best film idea. Just driving an old person around (although, that’s basically the plot of Nebraska and Driving Miss Daisy and they were both nominated for Best Picture, so what do I know). Once that lie is revealed Robert De Niro claims he just wants to get laid and took him along as a wingman. Ha! Get it? It’s funny because he’s old and he wants to have sex. Ha! But that also turns out to be a lie. Finally he admits he actually roped Efron into the trip because he was a shitty dad who raised a shitty son (Efron’s dad) and doesn’t want Efron to turn out the same by marrying the wrong girl and being a shitty lawyer. Awwwww… or something.
How? Funny you should ask. If not for a wildly improbable coincidence (they meet an acquaintance of Efron’s on the way to Florida and they immediately fall in love) then the plan wouldn’t have worked out so well for De Niro. If you follow the storyline closely you’ll see that De Niro’s original plan seems to be that he is going to get Efron totally shitfaced at spring break and take compromising photos of him. Then at his rehearsal brunch he would put those photos up and ruin his wedding and get him fired. Apparently Efron is supposed to then be ecstatic and thankful for losing his job and fiancee. The real version of this film is that Efron ends up just hating his grandpa… probably almost as much as I hated this film. Instead he loses his job and fiancee but is OK with it because he realized he’s actually in love with someone else.
Who!? Rather than listing off character in the film (which would be somewhat dry), I’m going to highlight a smaller character in the film that I surprisingly like or really hated. I actually liked Jason Mantzoukas’ turn as Pam. The character is just Rafi from The League and guess what? I like Rafi from The League. If it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t have laughed at all. I think the screenwriters knew this as well since what seems like a super minor character shows up like 8 different times and plays a vital role in the climax of the film.
Where!? Dirty Grandpa really did a doozy on its settings. If you weren’t close watching like I was then you may have become very confused as Efron zipped around the Southeastern seaboard. We started pretty clearly in Atlanta. De Niro needed a ride to Boca so we know we’re going to spend most of the film in Florida. They then immediately make a detour to spring break in Daytona Beach. How do we know? Why an obese gentleman rubs his breasts on Efron’s car while screaming “Daytona Beach!!!” Obviously. Once the shit hits the fan we see Efron drive back to Atlanta, only to find out that his heart belongs in Florida and we drive immediately back (conveniently passing a ‘Welcome to Florida’ sign). Phew. This certainly borders on A territory. Like Justin and Kelly before it Spring Break almost becomes a character in itself in the course of the film. But it’s just not quite vital enough. I’m going to put it at B. Better than C territory, but not important enough to the plot.
When?! This is the funniest question to answer. Whoever was in charge of the continuity in the film dropped the ball a little bit. We are given a beautiful exact date for the film. Reading from a newspaper a character explains that Efron is getting married, “This weekend. Saturday, March 27th.” It is perfection. However, when you ponder for a minute March 27th wasn’t on a Saturday in 2016… the two closest years are 2010 and 2021 because of the leap year. We know it can’t take place in the future because De Niro’s driver’s license is valid, yet expires in 2018. So it’s either a 2010 period piece or they screwed up the day of the week. I would guess the latter. It was probably in the script when it was written in 2010 and they just didn’t change that random date. How could they possibly know that a crazy person would come along and rain on their stupid parade. Anyway, it gets an A- for how specific and weirdly vital the late-March setting is.
Jesus, we really blew this one out. Maybe I need to rethink the rhetorical question method (called RhetorWrecked… boom). Luckily no one reads this anyways so who cares?
‘Ello everyone! Dirty Grandpa?! More like Shitty, Bland, Flawed! (I made a list of half-rhymes, I’m pretty proud of myself). Only one question racing through my mind during this film: Am I Unfinished Business angry or just regular bad-comedy angry? Actually to be more exact the phrasing was “Am I like … unfinished business naaaaaangry?” My brain was just trying to entertain itself at the time … let’s get into it.
- The Good – Efron can sing well. Jason Mantzoukas as Pam was indeed a delight if you like The League. He just plays Rafi the entire time, so that works fine.
- The Bad – I have a little sklognalysis below about what was really getting me naaaaaangry during this film. But De Niro’s character might as well have just been a string of curses strung between “heart warming” I’m-old family stuff. His character kind of doesn’t make any sense. Efron is boring and his trajectory is unbelievable. The entire temporal and geographic landscape of the film is also just weird. They’re in Atlanta, then Florida, and they are there for what seems like five days (they were supposed to be gone for one). There are many many things to dislike about the film, but the cardinal sin? I laughed zero times.
- The BMT – Yes and no. Yes because I would put this with Tammy and Unfinished Business as another example of an anti-comedy where comedy is replaced with anger and cursing. No because it is an unfunny garbage comedy.
And I’ll close with a little Sklognalysis deep dive. There were two cop characters in the film. Their introduction is promising (they are joshing around, but in a “you are dumb, you are in jail, have fun being an idiot in jail” kind of way), but then Pam (Mantzoukas) pops out and they are just like “oh, you were selling crack to children, but we like you Pam, so it’s all cool!” Their characters aggravated me to no end. Why? Because they were absurd, but taken in wildly different directions from moment to moment whenever convenient.
Exhibit A: Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle – The cop parody in this film extends along the Keystone Kops vector of idiocy, and along the Arrested Development vector of humorous brutality (if there is such a thing these days), etc. They are taken along the vector of past comedies and, perhaps, real life experiences to their logical conclusion. Along the vector.
Exhibit B: Superbad – Inverting expectations. McLovin’s expectations are that the police are going to arrest him and be jerks. They instead end up as fun loving and helpful. It works by playing off a common experience in an unexpected way.
Exhibit C: Dirty Grandpa – In this film Pam himself represents the logical conclusion for a drug dealer (or at least a common portrayal, fun loving and harmless). And that’s where the juxtaposition falls apart. The cops are at turns corrupt, but understanding to Pam. They are mean, but not really to Pam, and not really in general. They are inconsistent, but worse yet … they are not consistently along the “cop parody” trajectories you’d expect, but rather switch between the two aforementioned types: fun loving, and brutally idiotic.
Going against type can be refreshing, but here it doesn’t work because they aren’t consistent. It was aggravating and broke me out of the movie. Their ubiquitous presence also throws the balance of the film off in a way as well because it makes Daytona (and eventually the southeast US in general) feel very small. Without them the film would be more dull. But with them it fails at being at the very least self-consistent.
I call it the Along The Vector theory of parody. Without a solid case of reverting expectations, always default to parody in the direction of expectations. When when you choose a vector, stick with it.