Review: Baywatch

 

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Hollywood is turning a once popular TV show into a movie. From A-Team to the X-Files, the transition from television to the big screen has been hit-and-miss.

The latest property to make the leap is the insanely popular 90’s show Baywatch – a show about a group of lifeguards who risk life and limb to protect the beach.

The film trades sunny beaches of California for Emerald Bay, Florida where Lt. Mitch Buchannon (The Rock) and his team are protecting a beach. They’re in the process of recruiting three new lifeguards  when Mitch is forced to hire disgraced Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron). Brody is basically a less cartoonish version of Ryan Lochte.

With the three new recruits set – Summer (Alexandra Daddario), Ronnie (Jon Bass), and Brody – Mitch sets his eyes on recent murders that have occurred on the beach. He believes they’re connected to the Huntley Club that’s run by the mysterious Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra).

Mitch and his crew try to find evidence of Leeds’ involvement in the unsolved murders and the drugs washing up on shore.

The closest comp to this film is the 21 Jump Street franchise that started in 2012. They turned a popular dramatic action show into a comedy that parodies itself at every turn. At times, Baywatch is exactly that and that’s when it works best. There are moments when the action or story is 100% serious, that’s when the film stumbles.

The biggest example would be a conversation that takes place during the first act. Mitch is explaining to Brody exactly what Baywatch does. Brody’s response is that they’re not cops and they should call the police. Mitch responds with something about them being the first line defense, it’s their job to protect the beach, and blah blah blah we’re heroes blah blah. In a comedy, Baywatch not being cops should be a hilarious running gag and Brody’s response should be tongue-and-cheek. Instead, the whole exchange is treated like they’re in a serious action film. It’s confusing for a film that should be focused more on comedy than anything else.

All of the serious action sequences are sandwiched with some pretty good humor and gratuitous boobs shots (very Baywatch). Unfortunately the story feels a lot more like an action movie with some comedy than a comedy with some action scenes in it. Some of the jokes don’t work and others don’t work as well as they should.

The Rock and Zac Efron are great together. It will be nice to see them team up again in another comedy with Efron as the straight man. Their ability to bounce jokes off each other is some of the films brighter moments.

Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohbach (as CJ), and Ilfenesh Hadera are also good, but they aren’t given much to do besides be good-looking and tell a few jokes. The story could’ve benefited by having a little more character development for the Ladies of Baywatch.

Baywatch is funny and has its moments. The Rock carries the film like the superstar he is. The plot never fully commits to being a comedy or a parody of the television show. It drifts somewhere in the middle, making it an entertaining movie but stopping it from being one of the best TV show adaptations in years.

Grade: C

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