Baywatch is back! Read our movie review to see how the new movie holds up to the TV show:Baywatch offers one knowing joke that bangs its head against the wall until all the brains spill out from the damage. A handful of characters comment on how farfetched, inappropriate, surreal and dangerous it is for lifeguards to be involved with solving crimes that revolve around corruption, murder and drugs.
Unfortunately, this is a gag that repeats itself with the same reaction of a shrug before going back to the silly and sub-standard plot. It’s baffling how this comedy can be so knowing of the stupidity of the TV series yet can’t recognize the failings of being just another run-of-the-mill action comedy.
Dwayne Johnson plays Mitch Buchannon, the TV role once played by David Hasselhoff, with a more muscular and much less hairy body. There’s not much to the heroic Mitch as more people remembered the name Hasselhoff than Buchannon. The same goes for Johnson as he plays himself in a role that is entirely reliant on his charisma. There’s no major arc or lesson for Johnson’s character to learn. He’s a likable guy from beginning to middle to end, rarely proven wrong, even when going against the law in his desire to bust criminals. His supporting lifeguards have either zero character or pointless arcs. How can I possibly root for the fat and nerdy trainee Ronnie (Jon Bass) to win the heart of the buxom C.J. (Kelly Rohrbach) when he already has her love from the start?
The only character who must grow in some way is trainee Matt, a former Olympic swimmer played by a buff and cocky Zac Efron, who Johnson constantly refers to by nicknames of various tween bands. Matt has fallen from grace in how he let down his team by puking during the swimming championship, earning him the title of The Vomit Comet. He’s running low on empathy and humility, but the tough job of saving lives at the beach might turn him around. Or maybe the routine action comedy plot will do the trick. Either way, it still won’t improve his boneheaded nature and he’ll still get the girl in the end with little effort.
Baywatch certainly has the uneven tone of a TV pilot, not sure of what direction it wants to go with the material. It could go any direction given how ridiculous and desperate the show became for stories, eventually spinning off into the detective show Baywatch Nights that dealt with supernatural forces X-Files style (yes, this was a real show).
But instead of picking one direction, the movie is a buffet of executive meddling decisions. Sometimes it’s a raunchy comedy where phalluses flourish for shock value and nearly every conversation leads to talking about body parts. Sometimes it’s an overly dramatic lifeguard rescue movie where lives are on the line during critical situations. Sometimes it’s a buddy cop movie where the lifeguard angle is abandoned in favor of snooping, disguises and chases. And sometimes it’s mocking the overused slow-motion shots of the TV series, serving as a painful reminder that these shots were so ridiculous that no amount of ribbing can ever make them funnier.
I wish I could applaud the film’s faithful nature of presenting the unsure and shifting patterns of executive changes made to a TV show, but it’s much too third rate for that. It’s a bad sign when the most hilarious thing in a movie is the opening title sequence, where Johnson lifts an unconscious man out of the water, while the title rises and dolphins dance in the background.
Scenes that should be hilarious as when Ronnie performs a distracting dance that wows a crowd come off more awkward than funny. Am I really supposed to believe that the random and uncoordinated moves of Ronnie can hold an entire crowd at a ritzy party? Even C.J. seems to be into it, furthering the theory that Ronnie doesn’t require any more heart-winning acts.