Never thought I’d say this, but the Baywatch movie really could have done with more of the cheesiness for which the original was so … infamous.
Like when the movie’s title emerges from the waves as its star climbs out of the surf cradling a victim of a near-drowning and CGI dolphins leap out of the water around it.
Savour that, because there isn’t much else in this vein subsequently.
Sure, the film is all R-rated dialogue and genital jokes – and a new one in the ranks of human-fluid humour, necrotic body fat – but somehow this comedy-thriller just lacks the wild-eyed silliness that would have made it a lasting guilty pleasure.
After all, the 1989-2001 David Hasselhoff series – at one point the most widely syndicated TV show in the world – was known for far-fetched plots, colourful guest stars and endless slo-mo.
OK, so the filmmakers do nail the slo-mo thing, and milk it for several laughs too.
Guess it’s just indicative of how the ways of the world have changed since Baywatch went off the air – in what passes for humour, what passes for heroes and villains (fictional and factual), and how everything just has to be so darned knowing. Y’know?
Like the many self-referential moments when the movie actually questions what the heck lifeguards are doing getting mixed up in escapades involving criminal conspiracies and such.
Hey, The Hoff never stopped to ask.
And people didn’t seem too bothered when the show brought in ghosts and alien abductions either (and I’m not talking about the ill-advised Baywatch Nights spinoff).
Maybe that’s what troubled me about Baywatch the movie. The characters in it seem too aware of the absurdity of their situations.
It’s kind of like sports entertainment (or pro wrestling if you will). Once you start focusing on how the wrestlers subtly set themselves up for their opponent’s next big move, all the fun goes out of it.
That’s not to say there’s no fun at all in Baywatch – there is, but not nearly enough to boost it to must-watch levels.
There is eye candy galore, for both ladies and gents. Dwayne Johnson as chief lifeguard Mitch Buchannon, an absurdly ripped (must be why they call it “riptide”, hur hur) Zac Efron as upstart Matt Brody, Kelly Rohrbach as C.J. … and Priyanka Chopra as a very slick villain, Victoria Leeds, who doesn’t have any slo-mo scenes – huh, as if only good guys and gals deserve ’em.
Ostensibly, the criminal enterprise that Mitch & Co are looking into involves the smuggling of the synthetic drug flakka.
Though it must be asked, since the film stops to question itself so often, how is it the drug dealers are so careless that little baggies of their wares keep washing up on the beach?
There’s something else afoot, but the scope of that crooked endeavour is never explored enough, so Victoria remains mostly underdeveloped as a bad girl.
Why? Because the folks behind this movie figured we’d be more interested in watching Brody’s turn from disgraced Olympic swimming champion – say, where have we heard that before? – to a responsible and selfless member of the Baywatch team.
With Buchannon as his mentor, of course, making this sometimes feel like an extended episode of one of Johnson’s reality shows like Wake Up Call. It’s a role TAFKA The Rock is well suited for, though it seems like he could just phone it in by now.
Sometimes, to do justice to shallow camp, you need to go shallower and campier. A Hulk Hogan cameo would have helped, too.
Director: Seth Gordon
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass, Ilfenesh Hadera