Starring Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hadera, Jon Bass
The updated Baywatch is no longer set in California (or Hawaii), it’s been revamped to Miami Beach. “Are you Batman?”, Mitch Buchannon’s latest rescued survivor asks. “Yea, sure. Just bigger and browner,” he replies. The original show aired from 1989 until the early 2000’s, evolving with the times and jump starting a lot of careers that still ended up going nowhere. Johnson himself even once a guest star. Director Seth Gordon (Identity Thief) goes heavy on the camp, thankfully never reaching levels of 21 Jump Street. The most positive thing about Baywatch, the 2017 action comedy, it’s not boring. It will disappoint those seeking 90’s nostalgia or a good lifeguard film, as most of the films’ script revolves around drug laundering and investigations.
Mitch Buchannon (Johnson) is a legend on the beaches of Emerald Bay. With over 500 career saves, he is the most respected lifeguard in the county. He and fellow guards CJ Parker (Rohrbach) and Stephanie Holden (Hadera) are evaluating new trainees when Matt Brody (Efron) from Iowa shows up. A disgraced two-time gold medalist with a bad attitude and a drinking problem, says all the wrong things to land on Mitch’s bad side. Brody is placed on the team by a higher authority, and reminded by county officials to protect the waters not meddle in murder investigations. Mitch and Brody work through their differences with the rest of the team to find out where the flaka washing up on their beach is originating from.
The most positive thing about Baywatch, the 2017 action comedy, it’s not boring.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson might be the highest paid and grossing actor in Hollywood, but he is a performer with only one gear. Same might be said for Efron, who is far from being a solo box office draw, without their muscles and bodies, they don’t have much else to offer. Bodies are naturally on display in this film, with all the characters assuming the identities of the most iconic members of the original team. Both David Hasselholff and Pamela Anderson make cameo appearances in the film that are wasted opportunities. Male anatomy jokes get almost more screen time than anything else, an entire sequence is devoted to Efron’s character having to touch the lower regions of a corpse. That scene isn’t funny, neither is Efron in drag, or the handful of other moments the script scrapes the barrel for.
“I’m not a Bond villain, yet,” the comedy’s antagonist says. It’s great that the producers went female for the villain, yet insulting they portray her so camp because she is a woman. Baywatch is one of those silly films that offers both the good guys and the bad guys endless opportunities to solve the case, save the day, or kill a victim. Instead they wait, give some cartoon era speech so the day can be saved or the hero rescued. The plot provides many opportunities where you will want to shout, “Call the cops”, at the characters who continue to make irrational decisions. The comedy is a failure on an intelligence level, while the action is mediocre compared to other Johnson flicks. The poor- quality special effects (especially during a boat fire scene) are about the only thing that accurately reflects the original show. Unlike the show, little time is spent on the beach, and even less time focusing on the actual role of lifeguards.
Despite the lack of nostalgia for the original material, it still could have been a lot worse.