Review: ‘Baywatch’ Doesn’t Hit Rock Bottom, Still a Beached Adaptation

'Baywatch' (2017) - Movie Review

‘Baywatch’ Tries to Sail Like ’21 Jump Street’ and Sinks

2012’s 21 Jump Street was concurrently a blessing and a curse for studios. Deviating from its prime time crime drama premise, 21 Jump Street managed to strike comedic gold as both crude and rude R-rated comedy. So if its juvenile, drug-bust plot was seamlessly executed here, why not tackle another staple of 90s television? How about Baywatch? That sounds about right.

Anyone who grew up in the 90s distinctly remembers the significance of Baywatch to pop culture. The NBC lifeguard drama transformed David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson into household names. And the iconic slow-mo running on the beach? Who could forget such imagery? 2017’s rendition of Baywatch wades to same beats to some degree. Dwayne Johnson (Moana) assumes Hasselhoff’s leading role as Mitch Buchannon. The lieutenant and head of Baywatch is a living legend on the beach, responsible for 500 rescues at Emerald Bay.

When Zac Efron’s Matt Brody arrives on the scene, the pretty-boy gold medalist is a thorn in Mitch’s side and is recruited into Baywatch While Matt is trying to prove his worth to Mitch than just being a hot-shot parolee assigned to his watched, there’s more going on at Emerald Bay. Similar to 21 Jump Street, businesswoman Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) commands a sinister agenda involving drugs and real estate in the bay area. It’s up to Mitch, Matt and the rest of the Baywatch crew to investigate the nefarious plot.

Self-aware to a fault, director Seth Gordon frames Baywatch as an overblown R-rated comedy. From the get-go, Baywatch knows exactly the ridiculous, lewd and crude spiral its plot is about to take. After rescuing a victim in the waters, Johnson carries them on his shoulders with a poorly CG title card exploding in the backdrop. And within moments of the larger-than-life rescue, he’s offering ideas to improve a sand sculpture of himself better. Make the pecs and junk bigger. That’s where the next two hours is taking its audience.

SEE ALSO: Baywatch Review: Danger Dick Jokes Ahead

Raunchy humor certainly sells. 21 Jump Street, The Hangover and Bridesmaids are perfect examples of well-executed comedies riddled in toilet humor. Even with its tongue-in-cheek narrative, the sexual innuendos and boy band jokes towards Efron quickly lose their luster. It’s fairly obvious that Efron’s Brody is a conceited tool, who’s screwed up and paying the price of parole as Mitch’s trainee. But the redundancy of being referred to a Justin Bieber, High School Musical (ironically) and a Jonas Brother is a bit much. The same can be said about the penis jokes. Oh do screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift love to toss one in every chance they get.

Baywatch is a missed opportunity overall that would rather put its head in the sand full of toilet humor and juvenile plotting than be the clever summer comedy we sorely needed. That’s just not the cause. Though, Johnson’s having a field day here, moreso than in underused role in The Fate of the Furious a while back. Central Intelligence and Moana allowed him to flex his comedic muscle last year. And while he’s brings his electric presence full-force here, there’s not enough out of the derivative screenplay to be maxing out on comedic sets. At least, he and Efron have some entertaining chemistry.

At nearly two hours, Baywatch overstays its welcome with countless subplots and humorless misfires along the way. Alexandra Daddario reunites with Johnson after San Andreas, but she’s little more than a will they/won’t they surfer love interest for Efron. Kelly Rohrbach takes over Pamela Anderson’s role as C.J., who’s nothing more than the “hot one” running in slow motion in a red swimsuit. She gets herself entangled with Baywatch’s awkward recruit, Ronnie (Jon Bass). And Chopra’s villainous Victoria Leeds is nothing short of a wannabe Bond villain. That’s actually one of her lines of dialogue too.

Perhaps as a self-aware guilty pleasure, Baywatch does have its fair share of tolerable moments. That doesn’t necessarily mean we needed a Baywatch movie in the first place.

Written by
Matt Marshall has been reviewing films since 2003, starting with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." He specializes in home media, including 4K UHD, Blu-ray as well as box office analysis. He has a B.A. in Communications/Journalism from St. John Fisher College and resides in Rochester, NY.

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