Thursday, May 25, 2017


Based on the 90s television show not good enough for network television which earned a following in syndication by providing soap opera style plots that often had little to do with the characters' actual jobs of lifeguards, comes a new feature film version of the franchise. Dumb, almost entirely forgettable (I can't name a single plot from the show either), and mostly an excuse to put beautiful people in swimsuits and have then run around on-camera, the movie is exactly what you'd expect.

With a generic script which could have been easily adapted from any number of other properties, the set-up is fairly simple. Former Olympic swimmer turned failed human being Matt Brody (a ripped Zac Efron) arrives on the beach as one of the lifeguards' new recruits. The others include the underdeveloped Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) and the goofy comic relief Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass). While Brody immediately clashes with the lifeguard leader Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne "It's Okay to Call Me The Rock Again" Johnson), Ronnie is given his own subplot involving his attraction to the beautiful C.J. (Kelly Rohrbach).

A curious choice by the six writers credited with the story and screenplay is to make the dimmest character self-aware enough to notice just how ridiculous the franchise's premise is. Why are lifeguards fighting crime? While it's initially fun to see a character poke holes in the plot, it also causes the movie to take on too much water which ultimately doesn't end up serving the story all that well. The movie doesn't really ever offer a reason for the crime-solving other than the idea the lifeguards may see things the local (even more inept) cops tend to ignore. Here's another issue the movie has a hard time answering: who exactly is watching the beach when they are playing police? To ask that another way, how many children drown to make this movie?

Other than the tense Mitch-Brody dynamic, the main conflict of the movie is a thoroughly forgettable club owner (Priyanka Chopra) bringing drugs into the bay. Stuck with a bad plan, stupid henchmen, and customers that literally leave a trail to her door, Chopra's villain has her legs cut out from under her before the story ever begins (although she makes no real effort to salvage the situation). Rather than go to the cops, Mitch and his team attempt to solve the case on their own which gets him in hot water with his boss (Rob Huebel) but does teach Brody the true meaning of Baywatch.

As for our lifeguards, The Rock brings his usual charisma to the proceedings and Rohrbach is a pleasant surprise, but the rest of the cast is mainly treading water. Bass provides some laughs as the goofy guy falling for a woman way out of his league but that's pretty much all there is to his character. It would be easier to take him seriously if we saw any reason he earned his spot on the squad. He doesn't fit the mold of the other lifeguards, he's not a great swimmer, and he doesn't know CPR. What the hell is he doing on the team? Efron plays a dick well, but neither the character nor his expected arc are interesting. The team is rounded out by Mitch's underdeveloped right-hand woman Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera) who is given even less thought by the screenwriters than Daddario's Summer (whose two main attributes are being mean to Brody and looking good in a swimsuit).

For a comedy Baywatch scrapes the bottom of the barrel with boob jokes, butt jokes, and dick jokes. In fact, the film has at least three dick jokes that take more than three-minutes each to play out. If it weren't so groan-worthy that would be in impressive achievement. The charm of the cast gets the movie through some of its rougher patches, but the movie struggles with taking a 60-minute TV concept (inflated by numerous commercial breaks) and turning it into a full-length film that has to hold its audience's attention the entire time. The cameos from the television show's two biggest stars add only more awkwardness to the proceedings that sinks as often as it swims.

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