Seen May 28th
Adapting TV shows into feature length films is not easy. Simpsons, 21 Jump Street, Barney’s Great Adventure, many shows have made the leap from the small to the big screen with varying degree’s of success. They often take one of 3 options when it comes to storytelling
1) 3 Episodes of the TV show sewn together ass-to-mouth
2) A super long episode of the TV series
3) An actual movie that doesn’t rely on you knowing the source material in order to enjoy it
Baywatch picked option 3 and… well… it doesn’t outright suck.
The positives are pretty big ones, the main cast is amazing. Dwayne Johnson is endlessly likable to the point where the opening scene of everyone treating him as though he’s Jesus feels pretty believable. He has something about him that genuinely makes me buy this extreme version of the Mitch Buchannon character. Zac Efron also really does sell his character, basically Ryan Lochte except I actually get why people liked him at some point. Zac seems to have gotten the job as the films butt-monkey, having to do all the more humiliating jokes (Except 1 which… oh boy, I’ll get to it) and to his credit he does them with gusto. Priyanka Chopra is the villain of the movie and she is amazing. She is a fascinating cold blooded villain who has this ability to flip on a dime between this in control badass real estate tycoon and a drug smuggling psycho. The other leads, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hedera and Jon Bass are all really fun, but sorely underused. I’m gonna guess it’s because they had the star power of Dwayne and Zac so they just focused on them but it kinda sucks. Oh speaking of underused, Hannibal Buress is in this film for like a minute and really, he could’ve been replaced with a day player considering how little he’s used.
There are cameo’s in this movie by Hasselhoff and Pam Anderson and honestly, those two scenes provide the best laughs. Hasselhoff turns up in the only scene where they put the Baywatch theme music in, playing a character named Mitch Buchannon who tries to talk to Dwayne’s version of Mitch Buchannon and it leads to one of the more surreal moment where they’re talking and acting like it’s totally normal to just happen to have 2 lifeguards named Mitch Buchannon in the same town at the same time. Pam’s cameo is a little less… well, they don’t give her lines. She does a slow motion hair flip and in context it’s hilarious but it’s right at the end of the movie. Of course they put Hasselhoff and Anderson in the opening credits so by the time Pamela turns up you know who it is which does kill a bit of the buzz.
Plot wise… well, this is where the problems jump in. Plot wise the lifeguards stumble upon a drug ring by accident and spend the entire movie trying to bring it down. This is something that was pretty major in the series, they’d have the main cast handling shark attacks or serial killers, big insane crimes just happen to occur at this beach and the team goes to solve them. The problem? This film CLEARLY wants to be 21 Jump Street. The posters, the dick jokes (Including one where Jon Bass get’s his dick caught in a wooden lawn chair… it is a 3 minute scene that is nothing but humiliation regarding this man’s dick caught between the wooden slats of a chair. It’s the most humiliating joke in the entire movie, he does it with gusto, it’s actually pretty funny but it’s one of the few jokes of its kind), the references to the original that’re have such a wink on them that it’s obviously trying to satire the original. This works in some moments, the morgue scene from the trailer where they look under the dead guys dick for track marks is funny, some of the lines get a good laugh, some set pieces are over the top but they could’ve gone bigger. And we know they can cos this is written by the guys who wrote Freddy VS Jason and say what you will about that movie, the writers came up with some insanely fun set pieces that blow this one out of the water.
This film feels like they’re taking Baywatch too damn seriously. They’re acting like this is a serious show that demands respect (it doesn’t, it was porn before we had internet) and thus refuse to really push the sillier moments. I know that in order for good comedy to work you need to have some serious moments, but when the moments are literally ‘one of the main characters friends just got eaten by a shark’, the joke that follows better be hilarious and not just “Zac Efron doesn’t know how to computer”. They didn’t push far enough and I know for a fact they could’ve. There is 11 years worth of material to pull from, you have Baywatch Nights, fuck make a Knight Rider joke, call someone Kit, I don’t care but give me more jokes. You can’t take a campy TV series full of T&A from the 90’s, slap an R rating on it, make a few dick jokes and call it a day. You have to do what 21 Jump Street did and not only be merciless in mocking the source material (That movie literally has the stars of the TV show being hailed down in a wave of bullets) but you have to pack it with jokes that show you get how silly this is, that’s why the 21 Jump Street movies are endlessly entertaining because it went balls to the wall and stayed there. Baywatch keeps pulling back cos it has a serious story to tell… about these lifeguards busting a drug cartel, how do you miss the comedy in that?
When this movie is on its game, when it realizes the kind of movie that it is then it’s a good time but when this movie decides that Baywatch is something to take seriously and we really need to give a shit about these drug smugglers (Spoilers, I don’t) then it falls hard. It creates a dramatic mood shift that is hard to bounce back from and it sucks because this movie gifted me the image of Zac Efron getting in drag and walking about in high heels, and damnit that image should be in a funnier movie. It’s not an awful time, I will admit that you will probably walk out having enjoyed it. It’s not awful by any stretch, there’s a literal shitton of movies that took a TV series and fucked it up worse (Hi Last Airbender) but this movie could’ve been amazing, it could’ve been hilarious and I would be walking out needing new sides cos my ones split. As it is, I got a chuckle every now and then.
…though yes, if you go for T&A you will have fun, there is a lot of slow-mo beach running with nearly naked women for the straight men and lesbians, while the rest of us get Zac Efron and The Rock shirtless in every other scene, so if that is what you want then yeah, go for it.
T&A factor added in 6.9/10 (And yes, that is a better joke than half the jokes in THIS movie)