This is puerile comedy at best, where the laughs are so infrequent they almost feel accidental.
The name alone is so insanely evocative, conjuring up images of bronzed bodies, bouncing breasts and David Hasselhoff blasting his way through “Some people staaaaand in the darkness, afraid to step intooo the light!” Based on the real life story of a Navy S.E.A.L turned Californian lifeguard, it was - from 1989 to 1991 - one of the most widely syndicated and watched TV shows in the entire world despite its altogether preposterous setup centred on impossibly attractive male and female lifeguards solving crimes and stopping diamond smugglers with the same regularity as stopping a casual drowning. The show was ridiculous and it was gratuitous but...it worked, and it was great TV.
Fast forward twenty-odd years and Baywatch now finds itself the latest victim of a visionless Hollywood system forever sucking the life out of cinema by simply rehashing old ideas and formats rather then gambling on something new. ‘TV to film’ has, admittedly, had a handful of notable wins (21 Jump Street, for example), but the vast majority of these reboots and ‘re-imaginings’ fall harder and faster than the abysmal jokes they attempt to deliver (think Power Rangers, CHiPS and the disastrous Absolutely Fabulous).
Baywatch is no exception. This is puerile comedy at best, where the laughs are so infrequent they almost feel accidental. It is a film without purpose, failing to even entertain at the most basic level. There’s no finesse to be found; no craft on display or subtlety to admire. It’s a stupid and pointless movie whose only achievement is to rob of you of both your time and money. If that seems unfair or unsubstantiated, consider that the longest scene in the film centres largely upon Zac Efron’s character having to fondle and examine a dead man’s flaccid penis and scrotum while his partner laughs and takes photos on his phone. As for the second longest scene? Another man’s penis (erect, this time) is wedged in a park bench and needs to be extricated while onlookers laugh and take photos on their phones.
In amongst it all is Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and it’s a credit to the man’s charisma and star power that he almost singlehandedly keeps this stinker afloat. With penetrating eyes and a big beaming grin, Johnson treads that appealing line between physically intimidating and loveably huggable (something we’ve not really seen since Schwarzenegger’s iconic turn in Kindergarten Cop). His onscreen rapport with Efron is not without its appeal, but there’s absolutely no plot or script to back it up. The ‘villain’, too, Bollywood superstar Priyanka Chopra, lends her class and talent to a movie that otherwise has none, whilst the supporting cast grimaces and stumbles its way through scene after scene without any clear idea why they’re there or what they’re doing.
Sometimes self-aware and other times bizarrely serious, Baywatch is a film entirely adrift and out of its depth, slipping beneath the waves and in no way worthy of a rescue.