Saturday tea-time favourite Baywatch is back, and it’s bigger than ever. With the bulging pecs of Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron leading the way, everything should have been set for an entertaining summer blockbuster… but something has gone dramatically wrong along the way.
The resulting mess of a film is an unfunny, unnecessary and ultimately uneven waste of time.
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The original hit TV show was, at best, a guilty pleasure. Teenage boys (and girls) obviously had a number of reasons for enjoying the scantily clad lifeguards in the age before broadband, but even beyond that there was a inoffensive slice of all-American entertainment to be had for the casual viewer.
Nothing about the show was too taxing, apart from the worry of your parents coming back home early from the weekly shop and opening the front door before you could frantically search for the remote, switch over the channel, and pretend you were watching the horse racing. Come on… we all did that. Right?
Anyway, those were simpler times. Now, though, the quaint world that David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson inhabited is long gone. Everything has to be far more ‘in your face’, or at least that’s what the producers of this movie adaptation mistakenly think. Blame the success of 21 Jump Street – a smash hit big-screen reboot that Baywatch so desperately craves to be – for changing the game.
Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) is the dedicated leader of a group of crime-solving lifeguards. When a group of new recruits are assigned to him, Mitch instantly riles against brash rookie Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a gold medal-winning swimmer who has a selfish streak.
Meanwhile ruthless business woman Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) has designs on expanding her property empire. Her plan involves flooding the beachfront clubs and yachts with drugs and driving local businesses out of town. When the dead body of a politician washes up on shore, Mitch senses the need to investigate, but will he be able to control Brody?
Horrible Bosses director Seth Gordon is the man at the helm of this limp remake. The script thinks it’s edgy by virtue of copious amounts of swearing. It certainly steers the film away from the original series, but not necessarily in a good way. Whatever charm there was in the first place is gone, and instead we are left with a series of largely unfunny skits where Johnson and Efron supposedly spark off each other. There is also an inexplicably large role given to newcomer Jon Bass, a walking pratfall machine who lusts after fellow lifeguard CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach). It’s a disturbing subplot with an equally disturbing resolution.
Cameos from Pamela Anderson and The Hoff seem forced and with such a shift in tone from the TV series, this film has no call for them. Bollywood superstar Priyanka Chopra is largely wasted in the role of a generic villain, and none of the female characters are afforded any room to show off their acting talents.
Although Efron and Johnson are fine physical specimens, this brand of raunchy adult humour is beyond their talents.
And can we also please call time on the tired gimmick of trying to elicit laughs from the formula of ‘Hey [insert pop culture reference here]!’? It worked for Robert Downey Jr. in The Avengers, but it’s boring now.
Baywatch is released in the UK on May 29