Dirty Grandpa

January 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch
Directed by: Dan Mazer (“I Give It a Year”)
Written by: John Phillips (debut)

Although comedy is not the first thing one would think of as a cornerstone of Robert De Niro’s illustrious career, the two-time Oscar winner has had a few moments of levity with performances in films like “Meet the Parents” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” De Niro’s comedic chops, however, are usually wasted on subpar scripts where his characters turn out to be one-dimensional and bland (“Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle,” “Showtime,” the “Meet the Parents” sequels, “The Family,” just to name a few). The same can be said of his recent foray into the comedy genre with “Dirty Grandpa,” an embarrassingly unfunny and mean-spirited project that could only be described as the cinematic equivalent of a kick to the groin.

In “Dirty Grandpa,” Zac Efron (“Neighbors”) stars as Jason Kelly, a young and uptight lawyer who is tricked into driving his grandfather Dick (De Niro) to Florida right after burying his wife, Jason’s grandmother. While Dick unconvincingly reminds audiences he loved her, he is ready to move on soon after she is put in the ground. The reason Dick is so adamant about going to Florida is because after 15 years of life without having sex, he wants to get laid. A lot.

That’s the basic premise of “Dirty Grandpa.” It’s a movie featuring a grandson unwillingly driving his grandfather around so he can find a Spring Break-ing college chick to ride him back to 1963. Of course, raunchy things happen along the way that might have been considered darkly humorous if there was some sort of direction to all the cruelty (date raping jokes, pedophilia jokes, swastika jokes, homophobic jokes, and about a thousand penis puns), but these one-off attempts to shock audiences are nothing more than lazy and superficial gags that hang out there like disgusting little dingleberries.

Aside from grandpa being horny, director Dan Mazer (“I Give It a Year”) and first-time screenwriter John Phillips try to add some unearned emotion into the film with a side story about Jason rethinking his marriage to an overbearing fiancée and falling in love with a girl from the past. There’s also a badly executed storyline about fathers and sons and how making amends with one another is important. Mazer and Phillips want it both ways. Sadly, “Dirty Grandpa” refuses to understand that with a comedy like this it’s impossible to wear your heart on your sleeve if it’s already covered in semen.

The To-Do List

July 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader
Directed by: Maggie Carey (debut)
Written by: Maggie Carey (debut)

In “The To-Do List,” Brandy (Aubrey Plaza, TV’s “Parks and Recreation,” “Safety Not Guaranteed”) is a high school valedictorian who is sexually repressed. In order to become more experienced for college, Brandy makes a list of sexual acts she must perform before she is finally ready to have sex. As she gets started, she finds herself in over her head as she does her best to keep up with the more sexually-skilled guys and girls around her.

Plaza, who is known for her extremely dry sense of humor, gets the chance to be a little more broad and physical with her comedy in this film. While her performance is good enough and shows her ability to carry a movie (she did it last year in “Safety Not Guaranteed”), it is the supporting cast that provides the most laughs and memorable moments in “The To-Do List.” Actors like Bill Hader, Clark Gregg and Donald Glover in particular make the most of their screen time with solid comedic timing.

First time screenwriter Maggie Carey sets her film in 1993, but sadly brings nothing to the table by doing so. Besides serving as a backbone for a nostalgic soundtrack and offering a few 90s references and some out-of-style hair and clothing choices, it’s a wasted opportunity. Carey’s script is in many ways the most problematic feature of the film. A lot of the laughs come from the sheer shock of hearing a buttoned up goody-goody talk about – and ultimately performing – various sex acts. Carey flexes her sexual vocabulary muscles quite well by using terms that will have audiences jump online to check UrbanDictionary.com. More uninhibited (and freaky-deaky) moviegoers, however, might already know what “bumping donuts” means.

Still, many of the jokes fall flat. For example, when a clueless Plaza is introduced to the term “motorboating,” she states that it should be easy because she knows someone with a boat. Easy and unfunny jokes like that, mixed in with stale gross-out humor, tend to drag the film down. While the film’s glorification of female promiscuity and mixed moral messages may be off putting to some, it’s hard to imagine “The To-Do List” (originally titled “The Hand Job”) not finding fans of the new wave of female-driven raunchy comedy spearheaded by the success of “Bridesmaids.” Unfortunately, despite Carey’s efforts and solid cast, the humor is too inconsistent to truly hit the sweet spot (if you know what we mean).

Aubrey Plaza – Safety Not Guaranteed

June 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the comedy “Safety Not Guaranteed,” actress Aubrey Plaza (TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) plays Darius, a young magazine intern investigating the story behind a classified ad placed by a guy (Mark Duplass) searching for a partner interested in going time traveling with him. During an interview with me at the South by Southwest Film Festival this past March, Plaza and Duplass talked about the sci-fi aspects of the movie and Plaza’s Latina background.

If you could go back in time, what decade would you like to visit?

Aubrey Plaza: I always change my answer on this one. It’s the most popular question I’m asked.

I’ll try to be more original next time. Forget that question. What year would you least like to go back to?

AP: 2005.

What was going on then?

AP: (Laughs) I don’t know. I just picked a year because it’s not that long ago.

Mark Duplass: Not long enough ago to be retro or interesting, but a year where you’d be a slightly less successful, less intelligent version of yourself.

Did the sci-fi aspects attract either of you to the movie?

MD: To me, the movie is very un-sci-fi. It’s a relationship movie first seen through the prism of time travel as a way to contextualize it. It attracted me only in what time travel means. It’s a way for these characters to escape and maybe get to a happier place. If you’re coming in to see straight up “Back to the Future,” this is not that kind of movie.

Is your character based on anyone?

MD: There were some references for the physical aspects of the character. One of my favorite heroes of all time is Mark Borchardt, the subject in the documentary “American Movie.” To me he’s the ultimate lovable loser. So, I pulled some things from him.

Aubrey, as a young comedian do you feel you have to have an online presence to stay relevant in the industry?

AP: No, but I feel very grateful to the internet in general because I wouldn’t be where I am without it. It helped me out a lot. I did a lot of sketch comedy videos. I did stand up online. I would send my links all around and that helped me get an agent.

I’m assuming since everyone wants to be discovered online these days, that must make for a lot more competition for everyone.

AP: I think so. I think people have realized it’s a way to get their stuff out there.

Mark, Aubrey has mentioned she went to NYU for writing and directing. What kind of director do you think she would be?

MD: I think she would be the kind of director that makes very odd things. I think she would be very hands off and not say a lot to her actors and maybe confuse them a little. She’d come out and be like, “A touch more pineapple, a little less fire hydrant.”

AP: That’s right. Maybe like Woody Allen.

Would you go to the Oscars though? Woody never goes.

AP: Really? I didn’t know that. Yeah, I’m going to go to the Oscars. I’d be in the front row.

Aubrey, you have some Puerto Rican heritage…

AP: Oh, I thought you were going to say I had something on my face.

MD: You have some Puerto Rican heritage on your face.

Does your heritage play an important role in your life? Not many people know about it.

AP: Yeah, every day when I look in the mirror. I mean, half of my family is Puerto Rican, so it plays a big part of my life. I don’t like to go out salsa dancing every night.

MD: Your neighborhood is Los Feliz.

AP: That’s right. Los Feliz. I feel very lucky to be part of that community. Just recently I’ve gotten to do a lot of things because I’m Puerto Rican. I went to the Alma Awards and I was nominated for a Hispanic Media Coalition Award.

MD: I didn’t know that!

AP: Yeah, I gave a speech. It was awesome. It was a lot of fun. I’m really glad I’m Hispanic. I get to enjoy the benefits of that and get to eat great food and enjoy my family.

What’s the most Latina thing about you?

AP: Maybe my love of drinking.

MD: And homemade corn tortillas!