Oh boy, is Baywatch dumb. Those were my exact words as I left the movie on Tuesday, word vomit that I could barely contain. It’s not that The Rock, Zac Efron, Kelly Rohrbach, Alexandra Daddario, Ilfenesh Hadera, Priyanka Chapra and Jon Bass aren’t aware (they seem to be EXTREMELY aware) but despite their best efforts they can’t contain it. That’s not to say you’ll be repulsed by the stupidity…I mean…what do you expect from Baywatch (shit what did I expect from Baywatch!?)
What’s a bit disappointing is given the talent listed above, this movie could’ve been a dramatically more subversive comedy. But it’s not and why should we expect that? The original Baywatch television show was a sleazy, slow-motion soft core porn knockoff with a PG-heart of gold. No matter the amount of t&a flopping in the wind each episode ended with the Hoff learning an important life lesson (which is probably good, given his intense, drunk burger gorging video.)
The new film is directed by Seth Gordon, who’s last two films (Horrible Bosses & Identity Thief) are garbage. Put simply, he’s pretty bad at this. Many of his jokes fall flat – just because of weird editing choices, his action sequences waffle between incoherent and completely engaging (a minor miracle,) and his special effects are clumsy, small town antique store knockoffs of the real thing. But given his complete lack of skill, I still found myself wholly endeared by this dunce-ridden romp in the sand.
Given nothing to work with it’s almost completely on the cast to sell this garbage and they are mostly up to the task. The Rock is the most bankable action star in Hollywood but also is a game performer (see his SNL performance last week, most notably this skit.) His comedic timing is better than most and he sells many cringe worthy lines with a wink and a smile. Zac Efron is also excelling at being hot but also playing dumb. In the Neighbors movies, he stole the show as Teddy, the luddite President of a fraternity that moved in next door to the wrong stoner parents. Efron was magnetic as the enigmatic leader. Here he works the same angle to lesser effect, only because this movie is much worse.
Each female actress – as in the original show – is given far less to do than their male counter parts. That’s not to say they don’t try, far from it. The standout is newcomer Kelly Rohrbach – who is given some decent comedic material outside of the scantily clad outfits she must wear.
Which is why you shouldn’t see Baywatch for anything other than what you expect. The first 30-minutes deliver exactly that – a bunch of beautiful people, lathered up making bad jokes with a wink and a smile. It’s when the plot kicks in that the runtime collapses on itself – none of it matters. The entire enterprise looks plastic and cheap much like the original show and scores a few laughs from some well timed dick-jokes. Baywatch is your Dad’s Playboy that you found in the corner of the garage next to Grandpa Jimbo’s ashes…no one liked Grandpa Jimbo but he said some vaguely sexist things you chuckled at every once in a while.