Film Review: Baywatch

by Lachlan Anderson

Rated M. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario. Directed by Seth Gordon.

Hollywood hasn’t been in the best shape of late. Every other film is either a sequel or reboot or a redux of something best left to reruns on pay TV. Whether it’s combined cinematic universes, a 5th (or 8th) film in a franchise, or a modern day comedy based on a less-than-amazing TV show, there isn’t a lot of original thinking going on in Tinseltown.

Baywatch exemplifies the trend toward the easy way out for studio execs.

Based on the popular and often parodied 90s TV show, Baywatch centres around the lifeguard team at Emerald Bay beach, lead by Mitch Buchanan (Johnson). Three new trainees join the ranks of the elite and very good-looking team, including the cocky ex-Olympian Matt Brody (Efron), whose brashness doesn’t play well with his new captain, Buchanan. Mitch and the team uncover a criminal plot that could threaten the entire bay.

Similar to some other recent TV to movie adaptations, like the less than impressive CHiPs, Baywatch seems like a half discussed idea given the green light. It’s definitely not taking itself too seriously, even poking fun at the ridiculous nature of David Hasselhoff’s original show. The only problem is that the filmmakers seem to have forgotten that Baywatch as TV programme never took itself all that seriously either. This film version has the odd moment where the comedy rises above shallow waters, including a few cameos from Hasselhoff himself (that’s not a spoiler, he’s in the opening credits), but mostly it’s an array of sex jokes, Efron’s Brody being just way too dumb, and plenty of scantily clad beachgoers. If you like good looking people, then this is the film for you.

Amidst all the slow-mo running and innuendo there is sort of a plot. The usual murder mystery meets drug cartel plot. It’s been done before, but it’s really there just to give the characters something to do. As always the divisive Johnson is on usual form as the king of charisma, but even his energy can’t do much to help the film as a whole.

Central to the plot is Brody and his slow realisation that it’s better to work in a team than remain an island of faded glory. The learning experience that it’s not all about him, and that he’s not so great, is slow going but he gets there. It’s not a far cry from our own selfishness toward God, the one inviting us into a family where it doesn’t matter how badly or often we mess up. Brody’s reluctance to fall in line should serve as a reminder that really in the end without help from God and also from the church around us, we’d flounder and fail.

The Verdict: Baywatch continues the Hollywood trend toward uninspired remakes. It takes aim at itself a lot, but even those jokes don’t land very well and The Rock himself can’t do much to save this one from drowning. 2/5

Baywatch opens in Australia on June 1st. It is already screening in the USA.

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