"Baywatch": Movie Review
Just two months after a silly remake of a campy TV show hit theaters, we barely have time to blink before we get another. Unfortunately, as with CHIPS, the modern-day re-telling of Baywatch flounders miserably. There’s not a lifeguard anywhere who could drag this thing to shore and breathe some life into it.
The original series, which ran through the 90s, may have been fun and pleasing in its own way, but re-telling the same story with different actors while amping it up to a hard R-rating isn’t gonna cut it. How many old and tired jokes about bodily fluids and private parts do we really need?
Dwayne Johnson has certainly proven himself in recent years, turning in solid work in bona fide successes like Central Intelligence and the last four Fast and the Furious movies. Even in dreck like 2015’s San Andreas, he proved he has the chops and the charisma to take trash and make it at least somewhat worthwhile. Not so here.
Starring as Mitch Buchannon (yes, the role David Hasselhoff made famous), Johnson can do little but try to stay afloat in a sea of groan-worthy jokes and mindless dialogue. He plays the no-nonsense leader of a posse of lifeguards and is constantly taking the law into his own hands as he tries to keep Emerald Bay, Florida a safe and happy place.
Complicating matters is the arrival of Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a thinly-veiled caricature of Ryan Lochte. Brody’s party-boy antics and fall from grace after winning two Olympic gold medals leaves him with no option other than to join the team for some positive PR. Unfortunately his colossal ego is as welcome as a jellyfish sting and twice as painful. He’s a jackass of the highest order, and not even Efron’s charm can make the character even slightly appealing.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around a high-end club owner, played by Priyanka Chopra. She’s selling drugs and blackmailing city councilors into a bad land deal, and Mitch takes it on himself to set things right, much to the chagrin of the actual local police.
Of course Brody redeems himself, and of course the motley crew of lifeguards team up to work together and save the day; it’s telegraphed from the start, so there’s no surprise there. It’s also no surprise that the script by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, who scripted the 2009 re-do of Friday the 13th, offers very little in the way of entertainment. Along with straight-faced lines like, “If we fall asleep on the job, people die!”, Baywatch relies far too much on over-the-top potty humor, including a prolonged scene involving the local dork getting his twig and berries stuck in the slats of a beach chair. It’s lazy writing of the highest order, and it relegates Baywatch to the likes of criminally unfunny crap like Neighbors 2 and Unfinished Business. Remember either of those? Me neither.
Director Seth Gordon may have helmed 2011’s legitimately hilarious Horrible Bosses, but he’s also responsible for the wasted potential of Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy’s 2013 inane Identity Thief. And Baywatch may actually be even less appealing than the latter, a fact that’s exacerbated by some of the most fake-looking (because they are fake) scenes in recent movie memory. Try to watch the scene of Mitch jumping onto a fire-ravaged boat without laughing; the effects look as though they were cobbled together by a film school reject using 80s-era technology.
Say what you will about the original Baywatch, it certainly had its moments, and it wisely refrained from ever taking itself too seriously. The movie, though, is an exercise in stupidity, and how it was ever greenlit in the first place boggles the mind. The smart course of action would have been to just let the script drown and sink quietly to the bottom of the ocean.