Review by Paul Preston
Baywatch is good because it signals the arrival of Dwayne Johnson as a comedic actor. He delivers the best lines of the movie with charm and his timing is mostly on point. You just read the full list of everything that’s good about Baywatch.
I’ve been waiting for The Rock to excel in a comedic role for a while now. He says funny things in a drama or action movie like Furious 7 or Pain and Gain, but I think the straight-up comedy he’s capable of hasn’t been offered up yet by Hollywood. In Baywatch, he’s as cool as the other side of the pillow with a smile and shoulder diameter a mile wide, but he can’t save the film or himself from this horribly misguided effort.
The film opens promisingly enough. Johnson’s Mitch Buchannon opens up the beach and interacts with the locals. The jokes are already not good, but it’s clear that if we just had to watch The Rock walk on the beach and talk to people, that’d be compelling enough for a movie. But there’s a quick establishing scene for him that is way over the top that establishes a tone and an identity for Mitch that the movie doesn’t sustain. Instead, we’re introduced to Ronnie, local fat kid who is in love with lifeguard C.J. (made popular by Pamela Anderson and played here by Kelly Rohrbach). He is so enamored with her, he gets an erection and the movie, very early on, stops everything to deal with Ronnie’s erection for about ten minutes. It’s a very strange double down moment on a flagrantly unfunny bit. The movie seems to be announcing its intention towards the top that it’s going to focus on pointless bullshit rather than set up a solid story within which they could deliver some funny moments.
Baywatch also announces early that its characters are going to swear a lot. I could give or take swearing in a movie, but this is clearly the kind of swearing that says, “We’ve got nothing, I hope our funny dirty talk will make up for that.” It doesn’t.
The plot eventually fires up in two directions. Zac Efron plays an Olympic swimmer set up with a gig at Baywatch to fill out a community service detail. And there is a new drug hitting the beach, and the source may be a new nightclub owner in town. Any send-ups of the Baywatch clichés are derailed once again to focus on the dick, balls and taint of a corpse, another crotch-centric gag that goes on for another ten minutes. That’s twenty minutes so far on dick jokes that aren’t offering anything new like rewriting the rules of how to do them, they’re just mired in the same old shock value bits. For a movie based on a TV show with hot babes, it’s in love with penis.
Efron is super-cut here, but it’s not a pleasant look. His face is so thin, he’s borderline gaunt, but the worst part is that he’s still being passed off as a comedy guy. I don’t know when this happened, but after the Neighbors films, Dirty Grandpa and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, he’s now sold as a comedy leading man. I…don’t see it. Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey, yes. Zac Efron, no. I’d get him in a film where he’s just the opposite of what he is here and see if that sticks – STAT. But the film puts most of its comedic trust in Jon Bass as Ronnie, who fumfers his way through the movie’s worst jokes. Unfortunately, he doesn’t become the film’s breakout star, instead he’s just a distraction when we’d rather be watching The Rock. And Rock fans who hate this film, don’t worry, if his output of films stays on course, he’ll be in another movie next month.
The original cast cameos are lame. They’re not much more than appearances where the scriptwriters forgot to employ jokes to boost their presence. Hasselhoff seems game to do bits, but there aren’t any. Pamela Anderson is weirder as they don’t let her talk and they do everything possible to avoid showing her face. I think we can all agree, even if we don’t know for sure, that she’s probably had work done, but I’ve seen pics of her at events and red carpets recently, and she looks pretty. Why the cagey photography is a mystery. Doesn’t matter in the end ‘cause she doesn’t do anything.
Lastly, this isn’t even a well-made movie. The fire effects are so fake there’s little to no sense of danger in the awkwardly staged action sequences. The fireworks display in the film’s finale is also computer generated. You’d think a Memorial Day weekend movie could throw down for actual fireworks. C’mon, Paramount. The music is another contributor to those awkward action sequences. Instead of relying on an action movie score or making a statement about the cheesy music of the TV show, rap songs punctuate the beach rescues, making them repellent in a manufactured way.
Baywatch is more CHiPs than 21 Jump Street and probably should’ve been released in January.
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Release Date: May 24, 2017
Run Time: 116 Minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures