AS a child of the 1990s, I had little interaction with the Baywatch television series.
In fact, the first time I came into contact with the show was indirectly through an episode of American sitcom Friends (The One Where Eddie Moves In to be precise). The impression, at least left by Joey and Chandler, was that Baywatch was a male-targeted soap opera, featuring attractive people running in slow-motion across the beach.
So when I heard Baywatch was heading to the big-screen I was, at least for a moment, struck by feelings of intrigue and caution.
I say caution because of the recent undesirable record of TV to film projects. The A-Team, CHiPs, Dukes of Hazard, Starsky and Hutch, Dad’s Army, Absolutely Fabulous and Land of Lost, to name a few.
The concerning question then became: is the nostalgia and familiarity of the Baywatch name, like these other cases, being used as a Trojan Horse for a weak script and ultimately disappointing cinematic outing? The unfortunate – yet predictable – answer is a resounding yes.
Action star of the moment, Dwayne Johnson, steps in to fill David Hasselhoff’s sizeable beachwear as well-respected head lifeguard Mitch Buchannon. Mitch – harbouring Johnson’s big Hollywood smile, commanding presence and hulking body – is compared to a superhero by almost every character in the film. Yet Johnson’s powers of charisma act as insufficient armbands on this quick to drown effort.
Mitch is joined by shamed ‘vomit comet’ Olympian and aspiring lifeguard Matt Brody (Zac Efron). Matt has the physique and aquatic talent to rival Mitch, but his lazy and self-entitled attitude leads to tensions between the two. This alpha-male bantering does produce a few grin worthy moments, including a 4th wall breaking reference to Efron’s High-School Musical past.
The female characters are relatively disposable and underdeveloped – even by this movie’s low standards.
Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) engages in straight to the point flirting with Matt, little else. Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera) is a loyal understudy to Mitch, little else. While C.J Parker (Kelly Rohrbach), the character played by Pamela Anderson in the TV series, seems to be won over by beach geek Ronnie (Jon Bass) from the outset.
Then there is drug lord villain Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), who is just as underplayed, making it hard to feel remotely interested in her downfall. Anyway, the gang of lifeguards trade swimsuits for detective work to help rid Victoria – and her drugs – from the beach. The absurdity of which is acknowledged within the movie, but brushed aside with a carelessness for the audience’s intelligence that befits the entire script.
If the plot is disinteresting, at least Baywatch makes up for it in laughs, right? Wrong. Penis jokes reign supreme, including Ronnie’s erect gentiles getting stuck in a sunbed – a joke that overstays its welcome by a few minutes. Then there is the gross out humour of the morgue scene as Matt has to investigate a dead man’s privates.
For all the muscle power on show, Baywatch suffers from weak jokes and even weaker action.
This is another film that should have stayed on TV – and in the 90s. Substitute Baywatch for Lamentable Watch.
Baywatch is available on DVD, Download and Blu-ray from September 25
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