Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddaro, Priyanka Chopra, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfanesh Hadera, Rob Heubel, Hannibal Buress
Directed By: Seth Gordon
Plot: A cheesy big screen adaptation of the 90’s series that finds the Baywatch team being led by a new Mitch (Johnson), who is forced to take a disgraced Olympic medalist (Efron) on his squad, while investigating a beachside druglord (Chopra).
What Works: Sometimes critics can be so damn serious. I get that these lowbrow comedies are not high class entertainment, but if it makes you laugh, then isn’t it worth something? The thing about Baywatch is that it is incredibly silly, but it knows how silly the premise is, and pokes fun at it constantly. Efron’s Brody, who comes in as an outsider, pokes fun MULTIPLE times at how absurd things sound, but Johnson’s intense commitment to his role sells the absurdity of it all. Unlike the series, where the girls were eye candy, here they actually contribute. None of the three Baywatch girls are ever a damsel in distress, and all seem to be able to contribute to the team, and the film, beyond being hot. I didn’t even hate the token “joke character”, Ronnie (Bass), because he made him likeable and sympathetic. He wasn’t just a one note character like McLovin in Superbad. He actually had a character arc, and it was played out nicely. This isn’t quite as silly fun as something like MacGruber, but it definitely took a page from 21 Jump Street and walks the fine line between serious and camp. I thought it did it pretty well. From the action set pieces through most of the jokes, Baywatch did what it set out to do. It made me laugh and entertained me for two hours, without making e feel the runtime or dragging.
What Doesn’t Work: Even with that, yeah, it’s not a perfect film. I love Priyanka Chopra. I think she’s a great actress, who has shown a lot of range on quantico. She’s wasted here, and she seems out of place in her role as the bad guy. It’s like she had no idea what she was supposed to be doing, or how to act her role. Also, they really lean into the homophobic humor about touching another man’s penis. I’m good with one joke about it, but this fil has like three dick touching jokes, and that’s two too many. It’s frat boy humor, but one is enough.
Final Word: I doubt this will end up being the funniest comedy of the year for me, but it sure tried, and I appreciate the effort. Ignore the critics on this one, and make up your own mind. I just think the critics didn’t get it, and panned the film because they felt they had to. I saw this film late, and went in expecting this to be garbage, but I actually got what I thought I would from the first trailer. It’s a silly, college-humor type film with strong lead performances from Johnson and efron. Especially Johnson, who really does go all in on his performances, which only help to ground his always bizarre characters in their borderline insane realities. As an actor, he really needs to be valued more beyond being just an action star who sells tickets.
Final Grade: B+