When it comes to film adaptations of TV shows, the pinnacle is Serenity. But if we’re talking about comedy remakes, The Addams Family tops the list, with 21 Jump Street a strong silver place. There are dozens of terrible ones though, from Bewitched to Land of the Lost to The Dukes of Hazzard. It feels like the bad ones are trying to bank on the nostalgia and stupid pop culture jokes and gay panic jokes, while the better ones get into something more satirical and ultimately, more clever and character-based.
So Baywatch comes from director Seth Gordon, who really only has one bad movie to his name, the awful Identity Thief. It’s based on the terrible, stupid, borderline soft-core pornography show of the same name, which launched the careers of very few people. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Mitch Buchannon, the same name as the main character played by David Hasselhoff on the original bad show. The Rock is a thousand times more charismatic and entertaining than Hasselhoff, but the movie doesn’t always give him the best material.
The story is virulently simple; after tryouts for the Baywatch lifeguard elite troupe, we have introductions to the whole gang. There’s CJ (Kelly Rohrbach, initially played by Pamela Anderson), the blonde bombshell who always seems to be running in slow motion, Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera), the competent second in command, and then the recruits: Ronnie Greenbuam (Jon Bass), the out of shape Jewish, nearly caricature tech nerd with a lot of “heart,” and Summer (Alexandra Daddario), who is pretty and doesn’t have much of a personality.
I don’t blame that on the actress, but with such a crowded cast, you’d need a James Gunn or Joss Whedon to handle all that well. Which they don’t have. Finally there’s Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a disgraced former Olympic swimmer with an obvious redemption arc. So as Mitch tries to build Matt into a respectable human being, there’s also something sinister with the evil Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), who’s doing something evil and blah blah blah, drugs, etc, murder, hacking, blackmail.
The story is honestly extremely simplistic and pointless. Instead, it’s better to think of the movie as a joke delivery with a partial delivery of cheesy pulchritude. The good news is that the movie isn’t afraid to show good looking men and women, so if it’s exploitative, at least it’s exploiting everyone. Anytime the movie attempts an emotional beat, it falls flat. But The Rock is so good, he elevates mediocre lines and makes good ones hilarious.
Zac Efron is charming here, and he can handle the comedy just fine. Action, though, he cannot handle. Of course, The Rock is a former wrestler, athlete, and movie fighting tough guy, so his action scenes tend to be a lot better and more believable. Summer has a lot to do, but has little personality, Stephanie has even less to do and even less personality, and CJ is just a nice lady. Ronnie has a personality, the nebbishy guy, but although he often has funny lines, I honestly think many of the jokes about him are kinda offensive and lazy.
Let’s be honest here; the Jewish, awkward, out of shape character is really legitimately ancient and not any good. I was worried about the gay panic jokes, because I knew that they were coming; but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. In the end, I had a good time, but I knew what to expect. This isn’t a classic, but it’s decent fun. Ignore the haters, this movie isn’t as bad as they’re saying.
Want to see Baywatch and judge for yourself? Click on the images below to buy your tickets now, and be sure to come back and tell us what you thought!
Baywatch has a running time of 1 hour 56 minutes, and is rated R for language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity.