Release Date: May 25th, 2017 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Seth Gordon Actors: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hadera, Jon Bass, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Hannibal Buress, Rob Huebel, Oscar Nunez
itch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) views his duty as Lieutenant of Baywatch as an integral part of Emerald Bay’s oceanside community, a patriarch to his “family” of lifeguards, and a way of life. Holding records for most lives saved, Mitch is a hero, a savior, and a legend. So when disgraced yet still highly arrogant former Olympic gold medallist swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron) arrives in Emerald Bay, expecting to be wholeheartedly embraced into Buchannon’s Baywatch lifeguard squad without participating in tryouts, the two immediately butt heads. Forced by his boss to accept Brody, Mitch gives the brash newcomer a chance to prove his worth, alongside recruits Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) and Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass). Brody’s initial reluctance towards teamwork quickly washes away when the Baywatch crew gets mixed up in the machinations of a sinister drug dealer, prompting Matt, Mitch, Summer, Ronnie, CJ (Kelly Rohrbach), and Stephanie (Ilfanesh Hadera) to work together to thwart the criminal kingpin’s plans to take over the entire beach.
It begins like an action movie, but with a wink to its own silliness; not unlike the opening of “Tropic Thunder.” Then it segues to Mitch’s introduction, which could be likened to the Most Interesting Man in the World, with numerous passerby having heard the legends of the lifeguard’s miraculous beach-going endeavors. And then it introduces the pudgy, nerdy sidekick character, who is immediately humiliated in front of the fit blonde, whom he’s lusted after for the last three years. Ronnie also undergoes the public ignominy of having his genitals trapped in a wooden chair, requiring the entire squad to pitch in – along with the very girl he would have hoped to impress (practically identical in nature to an early moment in “There’s Something About Mary”). None of these scenes are particularly original, but it’s the lack of comic payoff that is truly surprising.
Countless other scenes arrive with plenty of buildup and underwhelming punchlines. Rather than clever gags or finely-tuned slapstick, the humor relies heavily on trash-talking and cursing and sexual innuendo. Exposed or bouncing cleavage, a satirical skewering of the Gold Medal-winning Olympian who loses his heroism to booze and recklessness, and even Efron in drag are used for simple laughs to break up the bland preoccupation with crimefighting and sleuthing. But the bad language is overused to the point that it’s not funny, and the completely predictable mystery frequently crowds the comedy. It doesn’t matter that the source material TV show was mystery-oriented, because it certainly wasn’t a raunchy teen comedy. Here, it’s not about the drama of saving lives as much as it’s about one-liners and unconvincing action (and bikinis). Plus, “Baywatch” features one of the worst CG-fire sequences ever designed, generating zero tension as characters circumnavigate obvious green-screened flames, debris, and ash.
Lots of meaningless slow-motion parallels the conspicuous appearance of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon logo, while flexed muscles and shirtless showboating complement graphic male nudity. And the notion of teamwork is as stale as the antagonist, who recites quite possibly the most generic lines of villainy ever written (she goes so far as to compare herself to a Bond villain, which is an insult even to the very worst of the Bond villains). Her henchmen are no better, conducting themselves without severity, as if they’re well aware of the limitations imposed on violence in a comedy. Everyone is not-so-subtly self-aware of their participation in a fictional film, yet it isn’t played to maximum effect. The biggest laughs don’t come from this unconventional design; instead, the script resorts to bad catch phrases, vomiting, bodily fluids, and other cringe-worthy items. Many of the sketches saunter in the direction of bizarre uncomfortableness (such as the aforementioned crossdressing, which seems to be missing all the humorous gimmicks for which it was surely designed), while the storyline is so unimaginative that it can’t bridge the gaps between jokes. When the levity noticeably dissipates toward the finale, there’s nothing to keep the picture afloat. It all becomes very, very unstimulating.
– The Massie Twins