Brandon Richardson | 9/06/2017
It’s yet another unwarranted revival of an eighties TV classic. Unfortunately, Baywatch falls much closer on the spectrum to The A Team than to 21 Jump Street.
Seth Gordon (whose distinguished comedy career includes Horrible Bosses, Four Holidays and, less noticeably, Identity Thief) gives us yet another taste of his crude and brash humour with Baywatch, now updated for the 21st century. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) is a lifeguard who has dedicated his life to protecting The Bay’s patrons from threats both in and out of the water. However, now he faces a new challenge; training up ex-olympic champion swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron) and reeling in his selfish, party-boy attitude. While the two work on their differences, a sinister plot is brewing behind the scenes, with new owner of the Bay’s Huntley Club Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) suspiciously gaining more and more power around town and drugs turning up on the beach. Along with the rest of their team, Buchannan and Brody must learn to work together if they are to have any hope of saving their precious Bay.
It is hard to think of a film which has had such a prominent and prolonged social media campaign in recent times. It was certainly enough time for people to convince themselves that the trashy, jiggle-fest soap, that was iconic in its time, would work in today’s media climate. They reeled in The Rock, whose deadpan delivery is always entertaining. They landed Zac Efron, whose prior comedic success and chiseled good looks were sure to bring appeal for a new generation. Likewise, up-and-comers Alexandra Daddario (as Summer Quinn) and Ilfenesh Hadera (as Stephanie Holden), and virtual debutant Kelly Rohrbach (as C.J. Parker), would rival the glitz and glamour of the leading ladies in the original. And yet, despite all these promising factors, what is served up is an almost two hour farce of mediocre action scenes, an overly-serious crime plot, gratuitous F-bombs and oh-so-many sex jokes.
There is the occasional moment where this film shows a glimpse of what it could be: a light-hearted parody of the silliness of the TV show. We see the odd jab at the famous slow-motion abuse, and Efron’s Brody spends much of the film puzzling at the insanity of an unarmed and ill-prepared lifeguard crew thinking it logical to investigate and take on a multifaceted criminal conspiracy on their own for no obviously discernible reason. He quizzes Buchannon as to why he refuses to call the police, a sentiment which is sure to resonant strongly with an audience unfamiliar to the original concept. Instead of doubling down on this humour, in the same way that Jump Street’s self-aware style makes running reference to the age of its actors, Gordon decides to throw it out the window in a misguided attempt to set up a semi-serious action-comedy franchise. If a five-minute scene about wannabe-lifeguard Ronnie, played by Jon Bass (who is essentially a discount-Josh Gad in this film), getting his penis stuck in a sunbed sounds appealing to you, then you will probably love this film, as there really isn’t any more depth to it.
Johnson, as always, delivers his lines with that ultra-serious yet charismatic manner in all circumstances. This is something that we have come to really enjoy from him, even though we mainly see it in unfavourable films (eg. Pain and Gain, Central Intelligence). But in the times he isn’t on screen you will find yourself wishing he was, as much of the dynamic of the lead characters really only works with his witty interplay between them. Perhaps one of the redeeming aspects of this updated version is the way it has evened out the balance in sexualisation of its male and female characters, something the original was notoriously poor at in hindsight.
Seth Gordon’s Baywatch misses out on a prime opportunity to ridicule the craziness of a bygone TV legacy, instead settling for cheap, flat gags and mediocre thrills that we hope to never see again will definitely be renewed for sequel! Can’t Wait XD!