Stephen David Miller

Startup cofounder, AI researcher, podcaster, person, etc.

Review: Dirty Grandpa

Missed Connections, 01/24/16, San Francisco, California

To the young white male with the hoodie and plug earrings who sat behind me during Dirty Grandpa.

You probably don’t remember me, but we both attended today’s 4:50 pm showing at the Century Cinemas on Market St. I sat in row 11 or so, slightly to the left. You sat in row 14, dead center. I believe you came alone, though you seem to believe you were surrounded by friends. You had short spikey hair, a black hooded sweatshirt, and a constantly-open mouth which, against all odds, did not contain braces. You are the Platonic Ideal which Sid from Toy Story roughly approximated. I’ve seen you many times through a mirror dimly, but tonight I saw your face.

I didn’t turn around to get a look at that face until the movie was almost over; you know, about the time that regressive fiancĂ© character announced she’d slept with knock-off T.J. Miller for reasons known only to the screenwriter. You were too busy shouting “HA HA HA NO F***IN WAY MAN NO F***IN WAY THIS IS LEGIT UNREAL” and accepting a thousand imaginary high fives to notice my stare. I only watched you for one, maybe three seconds max, but I wish I could have held my gaze for eternity. I want to know who you are inside. I want to know your soul.

Do you mind if I call you Spence? I’m somehow certain it’s your name. Spence, that look was the conclusion of a 90 minute journey we shared together. It began with the trailer for How To Be Single, when Rebel Wilson came on screen and you belted out a hearty, five second guffaw. No joke had yet been delivered, save the mere existence of plus-sized women — a concept which, like many, I now know you find utterly hilarious. I whispered to my friend that this was going to be a long movie. I had no idea how long.

For the next hour and a half I did not watch Dirty Grandpa. I watched Dirty Grandpa and Spence, a bizarre work of performance art wherein character and audience become blurred beyond distinction. Every time Robert De Niro cursed, you shouted “WHAT NO WHAT NO WHAT” as if it were an uproarious punchline. When women made sexual references, you cried “WHAAAAAHHAHAHA” until you audibly gagged. When gay or minority characters came on screen, you shouted “OH NOOONONO” even before the hacky bits flooded in (and, oh, would they ever, Spence, would they ever. And you always had a louder laugh queued up to greet them.)

I want to know what it’s like inside your head. Why, during all 100 obligatory “party” scenes, did you shout “WOOOOOOOO ATTA BOY” like your buddy was doing a keg stand? Did you truly believe yourself to be on Spring Break with Zac and Robert and teenage Rose Byrne and [censored out of respect for Ms. Plaza, who I assume was forced into this at gunpoint.] When they dance in the club, do you get sweaty? When they chug Natty Ice, do you taste its lukewarm, uriney numbness? Did you physically inhale Jason Mantzoukas’ crack cocaine? Is that what made this so much fun?

You weren’t the only person who laughed at this movie. But you were the only person who laughed at every frame of this movie, soaking in its texture like a gourmet meal. When you entered the theatre, you became the Dirty Grandpa, soaring out of your chair, through the screen, and down I-75 in a pink Mini Cooper (or, as you and De Niro shouted in unison, a tampon / labia / vagina on wheels. Because pink stuff is for girls and, well, girls, am I right?) People got shitfaced. Insults were spoken. Things hit things, genitals were mentioned, and your road trip was a glorious success.

I need you to save me, Spence. Save me, because I’m stuck on the outside and it’s a cold, lonely world. Here with the older women in the front row and that 30-something couple on an awkward date and the rest of the silent, uncomfortable crowd. Watching a terribly pointless collage of every other terrible movie, in the presence of a Rocket Power character taken corporeal form. Like Edward Norton to Emma Stone, I want to see the world through your cartoon eyeballs. I want to know how you found yourself in the snobbiest, hipsterest, least Spence city in the country, and how you maintain your joy. And when I finally know you, I want us to sit down together, write a script chock full of all those words that make you laugh so hard, and sell it to Lionsgate for six figures.

Sincerely, Hipster with the gray sweater in row 11

See my review on Letterboxd