Remember CHiPs? Remember how that worked out? Yeah? See where I’m going with this?
Starting from a baseline jump in which no one can possibly take it seriously is seemingly a good place for a film to begin. Expectations are meaningless when you are a high concept soft reboot with guaranteed bankability.
With the bar set this low, we shall look at Baywatch with a grain of salt (I would say sand, but this review is no laughing matter).
Matt Brody (Zac Efron and his washboard abs) is a disgraced two-time Olympic gold medalist whose career has been ruined by an unfortunate, vomitus-centered relay race. With no sponsors, job, or home, Brody has only one place to turn to: Baywatch. For some reason.
Baywatch, an elite group of lifeguards (so elite that there are annual tryouts for prospective new hires, tryouts in which at least 30 people show up to compete), thrives under the tutelage of Lieutenant Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson and his hulking arms). Reluctantly, Mitch is forced to take on Brody as a trainee, as his boss (played with the perfect level of ham-fistedness by Rob Huebel) sees it as a great PR opportunity.
The two testosterone-filled men butt heads while behind the scenes an elaborate (read: “elaborate”) criminal plot involving drugs, fishing boats, and real estate is unfolding.
Of these two plotlines, the contested relationships between Brody and the other lifeguards and the murderous beach plot of Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), one is engaging, if not generic to a T. The latter plot, on the other hand, is neither as engaging as an intrigue crime story ought to be nor as logical as any story ought to be.
Of course, within this grain of salt which we are taking is the suspension of logic enough to get over just how unnecessary the entire criminal plot is. But it is impossible to get over the lack of entertainment in the action comedy environment that the film attempts to create.
The film is just not tongue-in-cheek enough to be in on the joke. The nostalgic irony framework of the reboot is misplaced on character, leaving the crime plot to be a non-ironic walking genre cliche.
There is enough tolerable to be excavated from Baywatch to salvage a ship that set sail with holes in the bottom (ok, so there is room for one pun).
The film is worth a few chuckles. The hollow characters interact with each other to create hollow relationships, but at least they do it with charisma. There might be nothing to be found in Efron and love-interest-with-little-else-to-do Alexandra Daddario, but the Jon Bass-Kelly Rohrbach relationship has some legs.
By and large, though, there is little of substance in this crass, loud comedy. The erratic style—excessively rapid editing and a shot structure that jumps around various shots scales with no rhyme or reason—eliminates any kinetic energy in the action sequences.
Most comedy bits, too, are lessened by poor writing and pithy one-liners. These two varieties of set piece work to try and conceal the dull, boilerplate crime narrative at the core of this reboot. And really…
…it just doesn’t hold water (that’s right! A shameless second pun! What are you going to do about it?)
As always, thanks for reading!
Like CineFiles on Facebook for updates on new articles and reviews.
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)