Zac Efron has about twelve costume changes in Dirty Grandpa (Schwinging might have lost my count of a couple) and each one brings back the fun of playing with paper dolls. Best is his birthday suit which is memorably exhibited when Zac’s character, Jason Kelly, escorts his horny, recently widowed grandfather (Robert DeNiro) to a spring break party in Daytona Beach. Delaying his upcoming wedding, Jason smokes some crack, gets lose and shows off his tanned, gym-sculpted frame. Zac does the Macarena and shows off that rump, cleaved like a smile.
Former Disney kid Zac is now a genuine sex godlet. His semi-annual strip act (The Paperboy, That Awkward Moment, Neighbors) has been one of the few reasons to keep one riveted to recent Hollywood movies. In the ‘60s women anticipated Paul Newman’s requisite shirtless scenes, now moviegoers (women as well as liberated men) await Zac’s posing. He’s a clotheshorse in reverse. The reason for his tan is as obvious as his Pilates trunk and hairless, square pecs. Like Newman, he really is a cinematic paper doll and Dirty Grandpa is his runway show.
Item #1: Macarena
Like Donatello’s David statue—but animated--Zac appears in the buff except for a stuffed animal toy covering his crotch. This fantasy image of Zac invades one’s dreams—a variation on the toilet-planking in That Awkward Moment complete with erotic groin-grinding gestures. As any fashionista knows: Wearing less is more.
Item #2: Stop Staring At My Tits
After being arrested for beachfront indecency, Zac emerges from jail in a police-issue outfit: a cut-off tank-top exposing his abs with a printed motto:” Stop Staring At My Tits.” The amusing gender-twist points to hoped-for sluttiness. Zac’s a straight-laced, nubile innocent who inspires lust, a Millennial version of Terry Southern’s ‘60s female sex object Candy.
Item #3 Infinity Sex
After another arrest, Zac is outfitted in a black, fringed tank-top with a bedazzled Infinity sign. Future archeologists will laugh at the indication of obvious perpetual horniness while New York’s Museum of Sex gets its next key exhibit.
Item #4 Imagine This
When Jason tucks his shirt in a pastel preppy ensemble, grandpa Dick Kelly (DeNiro) objects: “What are you H&R Cock Block?” Fact is, Zac’s conservative country club attire is fetching. Every strip tease starts with formality and inhibitions that are fun to shed.
Item #4 “I’m Versatile”
Helping Grandpa (Robert DeNiro) enjoy a life of new sexual possibility, Zac competes in a spring break muscle show and, still, in those yellow, long-pants, flexes to indicate his sexual athleticism.
Item #5 Ready to Wear (out)
Even on the golf course where grandpa attempts to pick-up some ladies, Zac’s wardrobe makes a gay point. Grandpa gripes, “You look like a keynote speaker at a butt-fucking convention.” It’s the least of grandpa’s worldly insults.
The fun of sex is the entire point of the raunchy, goofy Dirty Grandpa. You have to be humorless (and sex-averse) to be offended by its deliberate naughtiness as so many critics have demonstrated. Director Dan Mazer and screenwriter John Phillips are in the long, if disreputable, tradition of porn meisters whose vulgarity opens the way for gay identification and solidarity. Dermot Mulroney, in a small role as Zac’s father, acknowledges fans of his sensual profile (that phallic proboscis) in a skit where he is tattooed with penis graffito. His punchline: “Let me get these cocks off my face.”
DeNiro’s old man role isn’t a silver fox, but his insistence to fulfill his primal urge recalls the sexually, politically daring figure of his early Brian DePalma movies (Greetings, Hi, Mom!). Prudes may object but in this way Dirty Grandpa is fairly radical. And because of his High School Musical image of next-door-boy niceness, Zac Efron makes even the filthiest of the film’s inane jokes look like a put-on. A put-on you can take off, then get busy.