Baywatch is the latest American TV show to get a big screen reboot with Dwayne Johnson stepping into the shoes once worn by star David Hasselhoff. Is it worth your time? Lyndon Wells says probably not…
Now available on DVD, follow the adventures of LA lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) who must team up with rookie recruit Matt Brody (Zac Efron) to stop a local drug dealer.
Baywatch is the quintessential 90s TV show that showed attractive people on a stunning beach wrapped around ridiculous crime fighting plots. It was never very good and as the sitcom Friends noted it was watched by many for the slow-motion bouncing of copious breasts. The TV show was extremely popular, but simultaneously recognised as not being very good.
Many of the show’s ridiculous elements are referred to with a raised eyebrow in the film, but whilst transferring the premise to 2017 it never settles within a confident tonal approach. There are flashes of affectionate spoofing, complete with the main cameos you would expect, uncomfortably combined with raunchy cussing and music from Notorious B.I.G. The TV series describes itself as an action drama where the film sells itself as more of a comedy with some action elements.
Any film that revives a TV show will always be compared to 21 Jump Street, and compared to that benchmark Baywatch falls very flat. A big difference is the production value, as the action scenes look cheap and there is an over reliance on green screen that seems unnecessary and noticeable to the point of distraction. As with most modern action comedies there is some plot including a less than two-dimensional criminal, Priyanka Chopra as Victoria Leeds, with her two thugs dealing drugs for a real estate scandal that would look ridiculous in one of the TV episodes.
Dwayne Johnson is impossible to dislike despite continuing his recent production line of average films. There is some nice banter between him and Zac Efron, but you are constantly reminded both are better performers than their choice of films. The film does centre around these two with the Josh Gad replacement, Jon Bass as Ronnie, providing a distinct lack of laughs as the comedy sidekick. He provides zingers like “Steve Irwin RIP” after referencing stingrays. Ronnie’s character does have a raucous introduction as his erect penis gets stuck in a deck chair after an enjoyable over the top Dwayne Johnson title sequence.
The opening third has a lot to enjoy as it lambasts the TV show’s obsession with bouncing boobs and starts the film with a fun spoof-like tone. The tonal issues quickly follow though as Ronnie reacts strangely to the demise of his previous best friend and the fact that Efron’s character, aka the vomit comet, throwing up becomes a punchline more than once before the straight-laced plot begins. After a fight in a little girl’s bedroom ends with a supposedly witty line from Johnson, the laughs have completely transformed into groans and the film is only halfway through.
The female characters played by Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach and Ilfenesh Hadera, are second fiddle to the three leading male characters. The female characters are of little concern to the plot or film whilst the brave, stupid and funny male characters are on screen.
On cinematic release, this film got a widespread critical and commercial panning. Our friends at the weekly movie recommendation podcast Down The Hall even listed it as one of their films to avoid. There is plenty to critically dissect, so how to go about rating this cinematic revival of a popular, but terrible 90s TV show within the boundaries of its own aims and genre? How about a list of scientifically approved critical questions?
Is it any good? No.
But is it as bad as you expect? No.
Will I laugh? Yes, but they will quickly turn to groans.
Are there beautiful beach vistas? Yes, but oddly often augmented with green screen.
Are there bouncing boobs? Yes, plenty.
Does Zac Efron get his top off? Yes, plenty.
Does David Hasselhoff appear in an odd cameo? Yes very odd.
But is it as bad and offensive as an “Adam Sandler comedy”? No it’s not that bad.
Will you ever watch it again? No thanks!
After carefully collating the score from these scientifically approved critical questions it’s a two-star rating from me.
Written by Lyndon Wells
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Written by: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, David Hasselhoff
Top 10 Films reviewed Baywatch courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film is released on digital on September 21 and on DVD/Blu-ray September 25.