Starring: Dwayne Johnson (Central Intelligence), Zac Efron (Bad Neighbours), Priyanka Chopra (Quantico), Alexandra Daddario (San Andreas), Kelly Rohrbach (The PET Squad Files), Ilfenesh Hadera (Chi-Raq), Jon Bass (Loving)
Director: Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses)
Writers: Damian Shannon & Mark Swift (Freddy vs. Jason)
Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes
Release Date: 25 May (US), 29 May (UK)
Does anyone actually like Baywatch for any reason other than irony or TNA? It was a cheesy show that managed to stay on the air because it had scantily clad women running in slow motion in a pre-Internet age, and beyond that it didn’t have much going for it. But in spite of or perhaps even because of that, the series has managed to remain in the pop culture zeitgeist, and so a film adaptation was inevitable. Playing the entire thing as a joke was probably the best idea, nobody wants to see this material played straight, but there is such a thing is bad satire. Unfortunately, Baywatch is very much in the bad satire camp.
The plot of an average episode of Baywatch was always something ridiculous and well out of the bounds of a lifeguard to handle, and the movie understands that. There are some prime targets to rip apart and satirize in a 21 Jump Street-style way, which is clearly what this movie is aiming for. However, the film version of Baywatch has nowhere near the amount of wit and ingenuity that film had. Whereas the Jump Street films took the clichés of the source material and twisted them to its own means, this film plays the generic plot completely straight and just has characters point out how nonsensical it is. The story is a textbook cop movie with obvious twists and very little unique assets, and its method of “satire” only highlights how trite the material is instead of making any actual jokes out of it.
When it’s not doing that, the gags are cringe-worthy and sophomoric on the level of a horny teenager and they stop the movie completely dead. For example, there is a five-minute sequence where a character gets their genitals trapped in a deckchair. It’s not funny, it goes on far too long, and nothing important to the plot even happens. The whole movie lacks any kind of logical flow, with the first act consisting of our “heroes” just trading jibes whilst occasionally cutting to the villain for no real reason other than establishing that there is a villain. By the time the film is over, it clearly thinks it has set up the next big comedy franchise, but no statement could be more false.
Dwayne Johnson is a man who seems to have an abundance of charisma and can overcome even the weakest material, but for the first time his charm has failed him. Johnson is clearly trying, but he and the rest of the cast fall victim to the exact same issue: none of the characters have any consistency in regards to function and intelligence. Johnson’s Mitch is supposed to be the charming leader who always knows best and saves the day, but whenever the plot comes into play he turns into a buffoon. Zac Efron’s Brody is always the one pointing out how ridiculous it is for lifeguards to be investigating a drug ring, but then he becomes reckless and idiotic whenever it wants to make Johnson look good. Even Alexandra Daddario as Summer, who for the most part is played as the logical straight woman, will go along with bad plans and play the fool for the sake of a gag.
Kelly Rohrbach’s role is pretty much just being the Pamela Anderson stand-in for Jon Bass’ Ronnie to ogle at, whilst Ilfenesh Hadera doesn’t even get a distinguishable personality. Bass’ role in the story is weak and poorly justified, and his relationship with Rohrbach has potential but they never do enough with it; they just sort of hang around awkwardly with each other until the third act just kind of resolves it out of nowhere. Priyanka Chopra as the villain Victoria Leeds is given nothing interesting to do and barely even any funny lines, with her only real purpose being to drag the paper-thin plot behind her. The only person who is consistently funny is Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as a frustrated cop that Johnson is always messing with, basically serving as an amalgam of Ice Cube and Nick Offerman’s roles in the Jump Street films, but they don’t do nearly enough with him. The film even wastes its cameos from original Baywatch stars, giving them a brief scene each and only one obvious gag when the gold material just sits there begging to be handled.
Baywatch could have been a genuinely funny send-up of a cheesy TV show and it is given every opportunity to do so if it simply tried, but it bails at every hurdle. It is ultimately a simple case of a comedy not being funny, mainly because it goes for the easy joke every time and can’t even do that right. The occasional funny line slips through (usually an ad-lib rather than any of the set piece gags) the performances are at least charismatic when they’re not inconsistent, and I wouldn’t say of the humour is awful or offensive, but none of that can save what should be a laugh-a-minute summer riot. I’d say skip the beach for now and wait for the next seasonal comedy to come around. You’ll probably be stepping into much safer waters than this.
FINAL VERDICT: 3.5/10