TL; DR(eview) - Baywatch is a completely serviceable comedy. It doesn't rely on any semblance of deep knowledge from the television shows that came before it and you can probably skip it in theaters and just wait until it comes to on-demand but it did its job and put a smile on my face throughout.
So I decided to get out of the house this holiday weekend and take in Baywatch. I fall in the camp that Dwayne Johnson’s innate charisma makes everything he’s in better. And one of my favorite underrated performance of his comes from another TV show adapted to the big screen in Get Smart. Additionally, Zac Efron has become a pretty reliable comedy guy these days.
The movie is fine. Not great but also not terrible. I had a steady smile on my face throughout even if there wasn’t too much in the way of laugh out loud humor for me. I’ll give them a lot of credit though on one thing. For a franchise that effectively made it’s name off the hypersexualization of its female cast members, the movie really doesn’t go that route outside of the obligatory slow-motion running shots. In fact, it felt like there was way more time and energy spent on jokes and bits involving male genitalia than there was on gratuitously exploiting the women.
Johnson and Efron are easily given the most to do and serve the roles just fine. Efron is cocky Olympian Mat Brody and Johnson plays Mitch Buchanan who isn’t going to take any of his shit. The film’s villain Victoria Leeds (played by Priyanka Chopra) is another standout, playing a confident business woman who fully realizes she’s on her way to becoming a Bond villains and embraces it. Less fit guy with a lot of heart Ronnie (Jon Bass) is given a lot of physical comedy as the odd-man out in a sea of beautiful people. Everyone else has a couple moments to shine but feel more or less interchangeable.
Apart from remembering that there was a stunt show at Sea World about Baywatch, I don’t really have any relation to the source material. I don’t even really remember going through a period in my youth where I would just try and watch if for the pretty women. So apart from knowing that it featured David Hasselhoff and Pam Anderson, I knew pretty much nothing going into it.
And it almost feels like that’s the target audience. There are loose tie-ins to the show, including a lot of characters sharing names as the original cast and the obligatory cameo appearances from Hasselhoff and Anderson but even those barely add anything to the movie outside of the slightest hint of fan service. In fact, their presence sort of makes it that much weirder because they appear to be playing their original characters, despite members of the new cast sharing their same names?
As with any comedy, your mileage will vary depend on how much you like or hate the jokes. There wasn’t anything in here that struck me as particularly egregious but it was also somewhat forgettable not even 24-hours removed. I don’t imagine it will really end up launching a new franchise if only because it seems Dwayne Johnson is being pulled in so many other directions that this one won’t earn enough to really keep him coming back.