“Baywatch” directed by Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) is a 2017 comedic re-imagining of the long running 1990’s TV series of the same name. As with the TV series, the film revolves around a team of lifeguards that protect the beach from a wide variety of threats and solve problems to save the day. The film follows Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a troubled former Olympic Swimmer as he arrives onto the scene and reluctantly joins the team already headed up by Mitch Buchanon (Dwayne Johnson), with Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera), CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach), Ronnie (Jon Bass), and Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) on the team as well as Garner Ellerbee(Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the local Police Officer. Trouble soon arises in the form of Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) a wealthy owner of the Huntley, a local beach club who is suspected of drug smuggling. Together, our team of lifeguards feel that it is their duty to take down the bad girl and save the day.
Before learning of the actual reviews from all around the world to this movie, I instantly had to give props to the casting directors who have chosen a big attractive and diverse cast of some of the most good looking people around the world and naturally this is what someone would want to see in a Baywatch movie. Both Efron and Johnson have been making decent strides in comedy and with their looks to match, it makes them good leads in this sort of movie and they do work some what well as a duo akin to Channing Tatum and The Rock. I only wished that the female leads in the movie namely Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach had more to do. While the comedy between CJ and Ronnie was somewhat funny, the one between Daddario and Efron wasn’t as great. And Priyanka Chopra as a villain was a missed opportunity to really exercise exotic sexual charm. As others more well-versed in comedy have pointed out, too many straight-men were in the movie.
Another aspect I did somewhat like is that the movie does somewhat haphazardly tries to capture that 90’s cheese which made Baywatch a hit nearly 30 years ago. We see plenty of callbacks to the TV show and aspects that fits into what a cheesy 90’s show like Baywatch would entail. Efron’s character and Abdul-Mateen’s character do attempt inject a sense of self-awareness into the movie, often explicitly making fun of the situations Mitch Buchanon always tries to insert him and the team put him into. As with many reboots, the movie does insert cameos for iconic Baywatch actors David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. The former’s was better used compared to the latter’s.
Now for the stuff that pretty much killed the movie for me. The half-assed action sequences and the need to feel like 21 Jump Street overpowered themovie. It did not even land that level of slickness that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were able to achieve in both of their movies thus making Baywatch an effective dud. During the boat rescue, the CG and Green-Screen was so painfully obvious, it would take anyone out of the movie. On top of that, I could not stand a good amount of the “humour” the movie drowned itself in aside from the somewhat fun dynamic The Rock and Efron had. This especially rang true during the hospital sequence. I gagged at the “necrotic fat” line during the red-band trailer and I still gagged at that and then some during the viewing of this movie. The entire third act of the movie plays out how you think it would in a movie that rips off 21 Jump Street. Both of the third acts feel more or less the same but this new movie has none of the camaraderie both Jump Street movies had in 2012 and 2014.
Overall, Baywatch with the good-looking diverse cast it had, feels like a big missed opportunity despite some things it did right. They should have opted for a plot and direction that would not riff off of previous successful hits that took a subverted comedic approach to an old intellectual property like 21 Jump Street. It should have embraced the lifeguard aspect more and dare I say, more of the sex appeal the parent television show had.
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