The only way to truly bring Baywatch back in cinematic form, is to ridicule the essence of the TV series that has inspired it. Trailers alluded to this being the case, and yet Seth Gordon’s endeavour is not quite self-deprecating enough, needing a further injection of irreverence, a tongue-in-cheek spirit that would see this through. Unfortunately, Baywatch is not quite absurd enough, following a somewhat generic, inane narrative that it supposedly set-out to deconstruct.
Dwayne Johnson plays Mitch Buchannon, everyone’s favourite lifeguard, but just don’t tell him you call him that, for Mitch believes his role is far more important: he wants to protect the neighbourhood. Alongside his trusty colleagues, such as CJ (Kelly Rohrbach) and Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera), it’s time to hire more staff ahead of the peak season, and Mitch has the responsibility of picking three. Summer (Alexandra Daddario) and Ronnie (Jon Bass) make it in off their own merit, but the same can’t be said for the playboy, former Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron) who is given a place on the team from the powers that be. Mitch instantly takes a disliking to his new colleague, but when a dead body washes up on the shore, and the collective believe that shady businesswoman Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) is behind it, they’re going to need to work as a team to get to the bottom of the situation, despite the actual law enforcement telling them, tirelessly, to back off.
There had been an initial worry regarding the objectification of women in this title, for the TV series and their now famous slo-mo beach jogs, would feel outdated in a contemporary climate. But it’s something Gordon has combatted well, as while such moments do exist, he has cast a strong-willed female protagonist. Plus, there’s plenty of topless shots of Efron and Johnson to help provide some balance. It’s the latter two actors who steal the show, with Johnson on hand to ensure that, in spite of the flaws, this remains watchable throughout. Though the actor has proven that while he can clearly save many lives, he can’t save every franchise he enters into.
Much of the comedy derives from Efron however, and he’s more than accomplished in that field – though few jokes are left with the supporting cast. Ronnie is supposed to provide that comic relief but is not utilised effectively enough (instead caught up in a soppy romantic sub-plot) – while the female members of the Baywatch are quite staggeringly underwritten, with very little to actually do.
Had Baywatch been funnier it would have made up for the narrative flaws – something that has been proven with the 21 Jump Street franchise. Instead we’re left with cheap, simple gags (there’s a boner on the beach scene – of course), and without much laughter the shortcomings in the film become far more patent. Just to rub sand into the wounds, we even end up with a cliched outtakes sequence during the closing credits. And that ain’t funny either.