Updated: Feb 4, 2020
Baywatch, the television series that ran in syndication from 1989-2001, was a cheesy action-drama that became one of the most watched shows in the entire world. Starring David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson, the show became a sensation. It did not take itself too seriously and, most importantly, gave viewers gratuitous shots of attractive men and women running on the beach.
Considering the show’s success, it is unsurprising that it has been adapted into a film that does not take itself seriously at all and gives viewers even more gratuitous shots of attractive men and women running on the beach.
Director Seth Gordon and his actors poke good-natured fun at the original series (specifically, its love of slow motion running and tendency to involve its heroes in cases that are far more suited to police officers than lifeguards). Unfortunately, the film as a whole is an unfocused combination of action and raunchy comedy that never seems entirely sure of what it wants to be.
Baywatch (100 minutes without the end credits (which feature a minute or so of lame outtakes)) stars Dwayne Johnson as Mitch Buchannon, the leader of the Baywatch lifeguard team, and Zac Efron as Matt Brodie, a disgraced Olympic swimmer who is joining the team. The early sections of the film introduce the Baywatch team (also including Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hadera and Jon Bass) using the kind of vulgar humor expected from the director who made Horrible Bosses. However, unlike in that film, the jokes don’t come organically from the characters. Everything is just a belabored set-up for one increasingly unfunny dick joke after another.
After the relationships between the team members are established, the characters are thrown into a thin drug plot that is used as a clothesline to hang a series of action scenes on. Amazingly, the action scenes are played mostly straight which is an awkward fit next to the scenes of wacky comedy. At times it seems like the filmmakers have forgotten that their film is a comedy. The action scenes are fine, but kill any momentum the film has built up since, after all, this is not an action movie.
The cast is game, but the writers (the screenplay is by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift) give them only clichés to work with. The characters have no real depth to them thus making the jokes very repetitive. Johnson and Efron are able to give the material a slight lift thanks to their individual charisma and the comedic timing of the cast is good. But none of it is nearly enough to make the film worth seeing.
It is not a terrible film and if you laughed at any of the trailers (or, despite the large difference in tone, maybe if you are a fan of the original series?), perhaps you would enjoy it more than I did. But for me it gets a recommendation to avoid.
2 out of 5
Cast: Dwayne Johnson as Mitch Buchannon Zac Efron as Matt Brodie Priyanka Chopra as Victoria Leeds Alexandra Daddario as Summer Quinn Kelly Rohrbach as CJ Parker Ilfenesh Hadera as Stephanie Holden Jon Bass as Ronnie Greenbaum Rob Huebel as Captain Thorpe
Directed by Seth Gordon Screenplay by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift