PARAMOUNT PICTURES (2017)
Director: Seth Gordon
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Priyanka Chopra, Jon Bass, Ilfenesh Hadera
Were you looking at my boobs?
Yes. NO!! Huh?
Camp, cheesy and slow-mo saviour Baywatch hits the big screen with an all-new cast and an all-new feel. Gone is the glorious, fine chest hair of The Hoff replaced by the mountainous muscles of Dwayne Johnson. Michael Newman’s moustache is obliterated by Zac Efron’s impossibly toned physique. Pammy may not be around, but the Baywatch babes remain. Fear not, the ridiculousness still remains, just ramped up that bit more.
The TV series routinely had the Baywatch crew getting into situations far exceeding their controls (they’re still lifeguards) but always saving the day, and the movie doesn’t deviate from this track – there’s illegal drug trafficking on the beaches and waters of Emerald Bay, Florida and the protectors of the Bay are on it.
Leader of the crew Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Johnson) is a local hero, with over 500 confirmed saves to his name, who is backed by a Grade A team of guards - second-in-command Stephanie (Hadera) and C.J. (Rohrbach). They are the best of the best, the beasts of the beach and each have the body to prove it. Annual recruitment is looming and there’s three slots available this year, however one is going to be taken by Matt Brody (Efron) by order of Captain Thorpe (Rob Huebel). A disgraced Olympian, Brody is sent to the beach as a way of community service and Thorpe intends on using his celebrity to ensure the Baywatch funding isn’t further cut. Joining Brody in making the cut is ace surfer Summer (Daddario) and chubby beach geek Ronnie (Bass) – a geek with a penis-swelling crush on C.J.
The discovery of Breaking Bad-level meth washing ashore piques Mitch’s interest and sets him on his investigations as to who is behind it, and an invitation to ruthless local businesswoman Victoria Leeds (Chopra) uber-glamorous party gives him his first opportunity to probe. In the meantime, Brody’s crushing lack of respect threatens to derail the operation and put lives at risks, if he’s going to get the girl (Summer) then he’ll need to prove he belongs with the sandy elite – Baywatch.
Let’s get this out of the way immediately – Baywatch is a ludicrous movie. The trailers set it up this way, the TV series wasn’t exactly high-brow and really, what else would you expect? An Oscar-worthy crime thriller? A Jane Austen romance? A Hitchcock-ian mystery? You’re getting boobs, biceps, crude jokes and a fun, OTT plot. This is how I approached it and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the silliness. It’s crammed full of gags which hit more often than miss, and though it descends into action and chaos at the finale, it’s still good popcorn-shovelling entertainment.
The acting throughout does what it needs to do, it’s fine and captures the cheese and sleaze required. Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron have a great rapport and their constant bickering provides the majority of the movies highlights – particularly the constant nicknames Mitch bestows upon Brody, i.e. ‘Bieber’, ‘One Direction’ and (of course) ‘High School Musical’. The ladies of the beach aren’t given much to do except squeeze from their bathing suits, but Daddario (a fine actress in her own right) is solid and has fun chemistry with Efron (those two would make beautiful babies…) where Rohrbach is encouraged to show her beach body off from every angle whilst tantalising the hapless walking horn Ronnie. Yes, Hoff and Pammy make small cameos too.
The CGI is laughably bad throughout, especially during the flaming boat scene, and the use of green screen sticks out like my nuts in a Baywatch bathing suit. I’m going to guess this wasn’t intentional and it shows, during certain scenes it’s impossible to not notice the generated backgrounds as they don’t align with real people. Zac Efron's physique is certainly not CGI, ridiculously ripped.
The plot becomes OTT throughout as the lifeguards are constantly three steps ahead of the police in their investigations and manage to get themselves into any situation they require, but without each member having a certain set of skills then we’d have no movie I guess. The action scenes are full of ham and macho-ness – Johnson getting to flex his Rock muscles, Efron chasing the baddies on his motorbike and the girls causing havoc armed with fire extinguishers, its self-aware warfare all the way.
There’s a lot of dick jokes. Including a flaccid one. Zac Efron touches it. It’s hairy.
The basic plot is lifted straight from 80s/90s television and is unapologetic about it, as is the script (with help from Ghostbusters writer Ivan Reitman) which takes very opportunity to poke fun at itself as possible without falling into full-spoof territory. Actions are described as ‘tacky’, the slow-mo running is parodied and Efron even comments the situation sounds “like a really entertaining but far-fetched TV show.” – It may be too on the nose or overkill for some though.
Baywatch isn’t a well-crafted movie (some of the editing is atrocious) but what it does is provide some goofy fun and allows the viewer to suspend brain activity for a few hours, and that’s just fine by me sometimes. I laughed a lot during it and found it all a stupid blast and it must have been a blast making it.
Babes, hunks and wobbly bits – what more could you want for an evening’s entertainment?
August 16th 2017