BY SELENE SANFELICE
Hollywood has found a formula to satisfy millennial movie cravings: take Zac Efron and an older, much less attractive actor, and throw in enough drinking, drugs, sex and college debauchery to put an “I’m Shmacked” video to shame. In the 2014 film Neighbors, (and soon to be seen in Neighbors 2 in May) Efron plays a typical frat boy while Seth Rogen plays a family-man version of himself. Now there’s nothing wrong with Neighbors; anyone going to a Seth Rogen movie is paying to see him smoke weed and self-deprecate in the deep chortling voice that has Generation Y hooked. However, the newest film to apply the “Party Efron Formula,” Dirty Grandpa, goes above and beyond to deliver a surprising amount of laughs for a paint-by-numbers party movie.
The slightest bit of acting effort can make a world of a difference. With the tables turned as Efron being the uptight buzzkill and Robert De Niro as the promiscuous partier, the two are able to deliver hilarious performances. Efron plays Jason, a college grad turned yuppie lawyer by his snobby, controlling, perfectly hateable Vineyard Vines queen of a fiancé, Meredith (Julianne Hough). Fresh out of his wife’s funeral, Jason’s ex-Army grandfather, Dick (De Niro), finagles Jason into driving him to Daytona Beach for spring break and one last shot at college girls. Adam Pally (Happy Endings), Jason Mantzoukas (The League) and Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) do fantastic jobs as a white, corn-rowed cousin, a police-loved drug dealer, and a shamelessly determined college girl who “just likes to f*ck old people.” While Dirty Grandpa does fall short in its few most sophomoric moments, the combination of hysterically written jokes and great actors creates a brilliantly crass comedy.
Dirty Grandpa is funny, but by no means perfect. The film got one star and an 8 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes for a reason: there is practically no plot. It’s hard to believe that screenplay writer John Phillips is the same man who wrote such ridiculously funny jokes, yet seemed to scramble to fit a narrative arc together. Characters seem to have conflict for virtually no reason and the plot has so many holes Robert De Niro’s character would probably try to f*ck it. However, when MLive.com said “Do not watch this movie while alive,” and Deadline called it the “worst film of Robert De Niro’s career,” they failed to realize that every aspect of this movie was made for teens and college students, who also just happen to be the most frequent moviegoers according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Millennials aren’t always looking to see Motion Picture of the Year, and they aren’t so easily offended. They just want to laugh for a couple hours and feel like they’re at a rager where Robert De Niro is the beer chugging champion and Zac Efron is doing the macarena in nothing but a stuffed bumble bee thong. Youngsters are going to keep feeding into the Party Efron formula films as long as Hollywood can keep putting them out. And besides, if De Niro’s career can survive three Fockers movies, it can survive anything.
Selene SanFelice can be reached at selene.sanfelice@theminaretonline. com.