Baywatch
3.0Dumb fun
Baywatch (USA, 15A, 116 mins)
In short: Dumb fun
Directed by Seth Gordon. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass.
The Plot: In the beach community of Emerald Bay, the lifeguards rule. They are the Baywatch. Fronted by committed hardman Mitch (Dwayne Johnson), their jurisdiction only stretches so far. At least, that’s what the local police think. Mitch is more than a lifeguard – he’s a cop without a badge and won’t tolerate any criminal activity on his turf. That brings him into conflict with successful local businesswoman Victoria (Priyanka Chopra), who moonlights as a drug dealer. Before he can take her down, he has to wrestle with the ego of new recruit Matt (Zac Efron). A disgraced former champion swimmer, Matt is desperate to prove himself but Mitch shoots him down quick. Beaches ain’t ready for Matt…
The Verdict: Running for 12 seasons from 1989 – 2001 Babewatch, sorry Baywatch, was a staple of Saturday teatime TV. It was often ridiculed for its sun, sea and hot bods approach to ‘storytelling’. It was ripe for parody and now we have a film version with a new cast. Except it’s not really a parody or even a spoof. Like Galaxy Quest, it’s more of an affectionate poke in the ribs to its origins. It’s also smartly self-aware, inhabiting a world where the TV show and its characters might exist. A character even references this at one point, while original stars David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson make cameos to give it their seal of approval (of course).
With six writers onboard, the script could have been an unholy mess. Some critics have already bitten into the film like a shark smelling blood, but this reviewer was mildly impressed with how well-written the gags and in-jokes were. Repeated jokes about slow-motion running and Mitch’s boyband-themed put-downs to Matt hit the mark every time, helped along by spot-on comic timing by Johnson and Efron. Not all the jokes hit the mark though. This being a modern American action comedy, there are the obligatory crude jokes about male genitalia which are over-played and outstay their welcome.
‘Horrible Bosses’ director Seth Gordon knows what he’s got here, so he doesn’t try to re-invent the beach ball. Instead, he has some fun playing around with audience expectations as to what a Baywatch film might be now. Elements from the original show are there, bolted on to a standard cut-and-paste crime film plot. It’s predictable but not unlikeable. Unlike the recent CHiPS, Baywatch is more in tune with its origins and knows how to milk it and tickle the funny bone. The performances are pitched just right too, with Daddario, Rohrbach and Bass playing a sweet trio of characters. Baywatch is dumb fun and is frankly better than it has a right to be.
Rating: 3 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor.
  • emerb

    If, like me, you spent many a Saturday evening as a teen in front of the tv glued to “Baywatch,” then the big screen reboot of this massively popular 90s tv show may be right down your alley. There’s no doubt that “Baywatch” was a huge hit worldwide back in the day. Those heroic, hard-bodied lifeguards patrolling the beaches of Southern California and of course the legendary slow-mo shots of Pamela Anderson running in the sand in her tiny red swimsuit are familiar to almost anyone who has lived through the 1990s. It’s hardly surprising that a
    reboot has now emerged. The problem is that tv show reboots can range from
    the hilariously successful “21 Jump Street” to the moderately funny and rather unsuccessful “CHIPS”. They don’t always work and while “Baywatch” has a strong cast, some funny scenes and a few witty one-liners, unfortunately it just fails to hit the mark and tries too hard in more ways than one.

    Dwayne Johnson plays Mitch Buchannon who leads an elite team of lifeguards, including Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera) and CJ (Kelly Rohrbach). As the film opens they are trying to fill a vacancy for a new recruit to watch over Emerald Bay. When disgraced former Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron) shows up, he thinks he has automatic entry because of the two gold medals he holds. However, Mitch is intent on making him earn his place and really prove himself – he’s not going to slide by so easily. The jovial interplay between the reckless, self-assured Brody and straight-talking, hard-working Mitch makes for some high-spirited entertainment. They clash often and even engage in physical competitions (like hauling fridges??) but find that they have to put their egos aside to stop local glamorous businesswoman Victoria Leeds (Priyanka
    Chopra) and her villainous plans to take over the bay. It’s not long before they’re embroiled into the criminal activities of her drug smuggling ring. When Mitch and the crew take it on themselves to investigate, plenty of action and comedic
    hijinks are sure to follow!

    “Baywatch” manages to pack in everything you would expect — deliberately crude jokes, plenty of cleavage on display, gross out sequences, obscene and insult-laced offhand remarks, hot babes and of course the excessive use of slow-mo. Even Baywatch icons David Hasslehoff and Pamela Anderson both make appearances (although Anderson’s cameo is rather pointless as she doesn’t even speak!). Admittedly, it’s likeable, stupidly entertaining and fun to watch. It has its fair share of funny moments so it’s not completely terrible. It is watchable but I can’t say it’s a great film. The tone for the film is set early on
    but the constant efforts to humour fall flat too often and fail to connect. It is trying too hard, for example a running joke involving salad is way overplayed and gags involving the bodily fluids of corpses and Efron’s character frequently barfing get increasingly tiresome. The cast is what saves it. Dwayne Johnson pretty much carries the movie as the steadfast, do-gooder lead lifeguard. In many ways this movie is the perfect vehicle for him and you can’t help but warm to his hulking, dim-witted likeable charm. There’s good chemistry between himself and Efron’s cocky Matt Brody and Efron willingly ends up being the butt of many a joke. Unfortunately, the rest of the actors, perhaps with the exception of Jon Bass as the dorky trainee, are not given much to do and the female characters hardly contribute at all. All in all, a mixed bag but if you’re longing for a bit of nostalgia
    and an evening to dream of being on holiday on a warm sunny beach in California, this may be for you.