Movie Review: Baywatch

Rehash of the silly TV series doesn't ride the wave

Baywatch (Pobřežní hlídka)
Directed by Seth Gordon
With Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hadera, Jon Bass

As far pure escapism goes, the TV series Baywatch probably ranked pretty high. But whether it needed to jump to the big film screen is debatable.

The film Baywatch gets off to a bad start with a string of American Pie–style sex jokes. This sets up a false impression that the film will be nothing but juvenile humor.

A bit later the film finally recovers and gets into an actual if predictable plot about a conspiracy that would have a very negative impact on the beach lifestyle.

The TV series existed to show physically fit male and female lifeguards in their swim suits, running into action in slow motion. The film tries to capture this spirit and make fun of it at the same time. They miss out on the campy spirit by putting it at an arm's length distance and also fail at making a serious crime film as the plot and resolution are strictly paint by numbers.

Characters in the film make reference to the pretty women seeming to move in slow motion, which is also what the audience sees. This, one supposes, is an attempt at post-modernism with the film characters giving a nudge-nudge-wink-wink acknowledgment that they know they are fictional characters in a film.

They also address the elephant in the room — that real lifeguards are not police and can't arrest people. Comparisons to the status of the lifeguards as investigators are again compared to fantasy TV shows.

But the cast is likable and tries it collective best to sell the material. Dwayne Johnson, aka the Rock, has a natural charm that has helped many an iffy film. He plays Mitch Buchannon, the role created on TV by David Hasselhoff in 1989 on TV. Keeping the beach safe is his entire life. Johnson goes a long way to making the film watchable, but it still never rises above an inflated TV movie.

To provide a bit of conflict, a disgraced Olympic swimmer is sentenced to be on the lifeguard squad as community service. Matt Brody (Zac Efron) has an inflated opinion of himself that puts the rest of the team in danger. Efron manages to play cocky very well. He is a bit less convincing when he tries to be humble.

Another new member to the team is Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass). He isn't as fit as the others and is sort of a nerd, but he wants to impress the women as a lifeguard, and has his eye on one of the other team members. He gives the average male in the audience someone to identify with. Bass appeared on Broadway in The Book of Mormon.

The women on the team include CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach), and Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario). Showing them in their bathing suits is a major theme of the film. They do stand up for themselves and present confident and competent characters, but the main part of the role is eye candy for the male audience.

The plot with the people planning to ruin the lifestyle of the Bay takes the characters to a few fancy parties at a marina and on a yacht. There is also some dealings with the police, who don't like the lifeguards meddling in crime investigation, and with local politicians, who also want the lifeguards to stay in their place. It doesn't create enough tension to make the film truly thrilling.

The film for two hours is moderately enjoyable once it hits is stride, but in the end, it is too forgettable. It joins the ranks of the film versions of SWAT; ChiPs; The A-Team; The Beverly Hillbillies; Car 54, Where Are You?; Dukes of Hazzard; Get Smart; McHale's Navy; Boris and Natasha: The Movie and may others that didn't live up to the potential of the popular series they were based on.

Some ideas just belong on the small screen. 

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