Based on the critically acclaimed- I mean highly watched 90s TV show of the same name, Baywatch takes its semi-serious but completely far fetched source material and moulds it into a comedy for a new generation, in similar vein to the recent CHiPS and more successful 21 Jump Street franchise. We follow the story of famed lifeguard and literal superhero, Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson). He, along with fellow lifeguards CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach) and Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera), are in the midst of searching for new recruits to join their lifeguard team. They’re holding a series of grueling trials, where the best of the best compete it out for the top spot. Three new recruits get in: washed up Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron), no-fucks-given Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario), and the determined but goofy Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass).
There are dumb movies, there are awful movies, and then there’s Baywatch. I went into last night’s screening expecting an abomination, so in certain regards, the film went up and beyond expectations, but in the scheme of things, that isn’t saying much. The film opens with a series of slow motion, sunset-bound shots of Dwayne Johnson rescuing the life of an injured swimmer, followed by a bold 3D title bouncing up out of the water in the most ridiculous fashion. It is, in every sense of the word, incredible. For as stupid and over the top as that one scene is, it sets the tone of what this movie should’ve been, and that’s a boatload of ridiculous fun. The 21 Jump Street movies, which no doubt served as one of the main inspirations behind Baywatch, work so well due to their tongue in cheek approach to the story. Baywatch tries, oh how it tries, but constantly stumbles back down to the ground.
This film’s biggest problem lies in the fact that it has no idea what sort of tone it’s going for. It shifts frequently from crude to juvenile to mature, trying to be both a fun buddy comedy and a well-plotted (hah!) crime story. Character arcs make no sense, evolving out of nowhere for the sake of the plot, if plot is even the right word for it. It’s inconsistent in almost every department. Certain sub-plots are rushed over for the sake of its running time, most noticeably during a low-point in Mitch’s career, which feels like it should have had a far more significant impact on the plot than it actually does. He disappears for a fleeting moment of time, and the lack of Dwayne Johnson is definitely felt. It’s during his absence where it’s increasingly noticeable how poorly this film is able to stand without him. It simply can’t. He’s the glue holding this rocky, broken disaster together, making the movie almost passable when it really shouldn’t be.
Still unsure about whether or not to go and see this disaster? There’s just one thing you need to know. The same two people who brought you Freddy Vs. Jason and the 2009 Friday the 13th remake wrote this film. Their execution in both comedy and expertly plotted storylines has just become abundantly clear. If you care about quality cinema, or even your own physical wellbeing, I’d certainly recommend avoiding Baywatch. It’s for the best.
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