Newsflash! The big screen adaptation of the legendary (yes, we are being generous) TV series (or Action/Drama as many call it) Baywatch, received bad reviews! We know, talk about a shocker. Seriously though, while it is unsurprising the critical masses tried to drown this Action/Comedy, is it really deserving of the scorn? Or is there a joyously silly and hilarious beach set caper here in the same cheesily charming vein as the original show?
The plot sees Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) lead his Florida lifeguard team with a big smile but a stern sense of duty, a hero among his colleagues and the beach dwellers, Mitch soon finds his feathers ruffled by former Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer-come-celebrity Matt Brody (Zac Efron) who thinks he can just coast (so to speak) on his past reputation, however he soon finds there is more to working the Emerald Bay than towel thieves. That’s your plot and from therein we have drug smuggling, burning boats, dicks caught in wooden loungers and all manner of bombastic sequences, as Horrible Bosses director Seth Gordon attempts to hit lewd gold with this update. Sadly the results seem to sink, as the film is admittedly not as aggressively awful as realistically feared but nor is it anywhere near as good as optimistically hoped, it just is ‘there’.
The biggest issue with Baywatch is that while passing gags are made at the expense of the show (ludicrous TV episode plots brought to task, slow-mo, referential cameos) the script never seems sure as to what level it is operating on. The action heavy and CGI assisted set pieces feel abstract to the kind of stuff the show used to tackle, as do the mega dirty gags. Then, on the flip side of that, despite some references, the film really misses countless opportunities to create a genuinely affectionate and funny homage, recalling David Gordon Green’s failed Fantasy/Comedy Your Highness in that respect. Instead it feels like a ho-hum remake of Bad Boys II (with a bickering male lead duo, loads of swear gags, explosive chases and even a morgue scene), which results in a very muddled affair, that's less Baywatch and more Michael Bay-watch.
There are some laughs to be had but they are not of the gut busting kind, although this can hardly be blamed on a very game cast. Dwayne Johnson livens the film up with his consistent charm, just as Efron is committed to his savage self-mockery. Jon Bass as techie turned lifeguard Ronnie is also up for a bit (ok, a lot) of self-deprecation, Kelly Rohrjach and Alexandra Daddario are less well blessed with development as CJ and Summer respectively (but do what they can), which is strange considering the film’s strangely feministic villain in Priyanka Chopra, which feels a touch randomly inserted.
Overall Baywatch has a committed, beautiful and charming cast but fails to give them a fun story to work with, instead we are left with something that is not offensively bad just intermittently daft, not particularly hilarious and unfortunately instantly forgettable. So, not quite the cancerous boil on cinema some have made it out to be, just not all that good, mind you, at least it is an improvement on the hope destroying dreck that was Dirty Grandpa. Then again so is rectal surgery.
BAY WATCH / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: SETH GORDON / SCREENPLAY: DAMIAN SHANNON / STARRING: DWAYNE JOHNSON, ZAC EFRON, KELLY ROHRJACH, ALEXANDRA DADDARIO, JON BASS, PRIYANKA CHOPRA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 2/10