Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama.
Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass, Ilfenesh Hadera, Yahya Abdul-Matten II, Rob Huebel, Hannibal Buress.
Year Of Release: 2017
Certificate: 15 (UK)
Runtime: 116 Minutes
Director: Seth Gordon
Writer(s): Damian Shannon & Mark Swift
Synopsis: “Devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchannon butts heads with a brash new recruit, as they uncover a criminal plot that threatens the future of the bay.” IMDB
The trailers made this look pretty juvenile and run-of-the-mill for what most modern comedies have become – films filled with modern R&B and rap soundtracks, crude humour, gratuitous innuendo, sex and race gags and language. And even films adapted from beloved TV shows all carry the same trademark style to make things “funny and contemporary” to younger audiences.
Lots of the original heart, warmth and subtle observations are thrown out of the window for these reboots/remakes/whatever, but, I don’t know how, somewhere amongst the check-list of tat above, ‘Baywatch’ did capture the essence of the TV show at points which made for surprisingly light-hearted and brainless viewing. Maybe it was something needed with so much grief, fear and political debate in the world right now. Who knows.
For what you know of the TV show, each episode pretty much extended our ripped and ample chested lifeguards to become unofficial police watching the bay. We had everything from murder cases, kidnap, drug smuggling…you name it, Mitch Buchannon and the team helped prevent it – along with their day job of saving swimmers, sailors and speed junkies in danger. It was far-fetched, but it was entertainment with some big name stars who were easy on the eye and helped along with some clever action sequences in a family friendly crime drama.
This adaptation nails that heart perfectly. This time it’s Priyanka Chopra as our glamour ous, but hardly Bond villain-esque, businesswoman aiming to fuse real estate and drug dealing into one tidy profit. Dead bodies follow her path and drugs turn up on the beach, giving Dwayne Johnson and his crew fuel to investigate and risk their lives and morals in doing so. They also get to do a number of actual life-guarding in saving surfers, swimmers and sailors. It’s just like the TV show, so for that, it’s not far wrong. It’s not to be taken too seriously, and it never was.
Johnson, in which this is the first film I’ve seen him in as a lead, wasn’t as bad as I thought. His straight-faced delivery and rather, at times, grounded performance was entertaining and he carries it on his broad…broad…broad shoulders. It seems he knows how to have fun without looking like he’s selling himself out, and he always drives the story. So too do Kelly Rohrback, Ilfenesh Hadera and Alexandra Daddario as the “baes in our Bae-watch”. But they do more than just run in slow-mo; they at least get involved in the story and have a part to play, and Hadera for one stands out as a well-developed character. They all deserved a bit more screen time as they are a decent ensemble and never annoying to watch on the whole. Jon Bass is hit as miss at times as the “chubby nerd” of the team, who is likeable at first but his one-track humour soon wears a little thin. We get he hates blood. We get he likes C.J. We get he has a penis. Let’s not keep on, yes?
The main problem for me is Zac Efron. For a good hour plus he’s incredibly annoying, arrogant, poe-faced and pretty much a dick. I know that’s what his character Brody has been turned into for the story, but it doesn’t help Efron is, on the whole, an easy actor to loathe. There is a natural arrogance to him and he’s a very lame actor with nothing going for him except the ability to be the young hunk all the sex jokes, ab shots and general crude material can bounce off. Be it vomiting in a swimming pool, squirting disinfectant in his mouth or talking about boobs, his character – and him – brings what positives the film has crashing down. Remove Efron, and in turn much of the dumb humour, and it would have been better in my opinion.
The humour too runs a little dry after the initial first hour. Thanks to Johnson and the others, the comedy involving innuendo and cheeky references to the TV show were forgiven because it was delivered rather straight, and Johnson kept everything grounded. His constant put-downs to Efron were a treat, and always made me chuckle keeping ‘High School Musical’ in his place.
But we have plenty of dick jokes to suffice, and it does get a bit tedious after a while. The swearing, too, becomes unnecessary and feels like f-words and s-words are thrown about because they can get away with out, and so do. Sometimes, less is more in trying to regain some credibility, which the film loses because of the content. The CGI is also pretty awful and lazy. If you have to green-screen the two leads on a jet-ski against the back-drop of a calm ocean….what point does ‘Baywatch’ have if you can’t even film things on location that would have been far cheaper than a dodgy CGI rendered background?
Oh, and the usual R&B/rap/hip-hop soundtrack was awful to my ears. Couldn’t they have at least re-mixed the original title theme to use for nostalgia’s sake?
A very mixed bag – the outrageous plot is just what the TV show would do, and our lead cast, bar one, are entertaining and likeable enough without being annoying or gross-out or pointless. It just hits the deck with Efron and the crass humour and content that doesn’t know when to stop. And with two cameos – not even cameos as they are listed in the main titles and one is totally pointless –don’t expect anything too bad or too good and you could be surprised if you’re in the right mood.