This is it. We’ve peaked. They made a film about Baywatch. Yes, that Baywatch, the television show from a billion years ago about lifeguards. And guess what? It is a terrible film. I could probably end this review here and you wouldn’t protest. But instead, I shall attempt to explain what makes it so terrible, which is an issue, at its core, that is very complex.
Let’s just ignore the fact that this premise is galactically stupid. We’re beyond “they made a movie about what” territory in 2017, given that this year we’re getting a film adaptation of Baywatch, Captain Underpants and the smiling pile of feces that you can find on your iPhone’s keyboard. So yes, it is ridiculous to make a film about Baywatch in the first place, but for the benefit of this review, let’s assume that it was the best idea in the history of cinema; what is this picture about? Dwayne Johnson plays “the lieutenant” of Baywatch, an elite group of lifeguards who save people’s lives every day. In the context of the film, and I’m assuming the show, this job isn’t just a cushy summer career for high schoolers who want to work on their tan and get ogled by skinny kids named Squints, but rather a hellraising environment in which people basically die every day through a series of elaborate maritime crimes and negligent parenting. The film’s first act finds Johnson’s team of lifeguards expanding their ranks by opening up an audition process with which three young hopefuls can cement their place in lifeguarding history by undergoing a rigorous bootcamp-esque series of trials. The three new recruits involve the talented but underused Alexandria Daddario as Summer, who really doesn’t do anything the whole film, the awkward Jon Bass (a desperate Jonah Hill knockoff), who joins the team as a result of his lustful affection for CJ (Kelly Rohrback), a girl on the Baywatch squad who fills the role of “the hot one,” as if Daddario wasn’t enough already, and finally the young hotshot Zac Efron as Matt Brody, an Olympic Gold Medalist who lost the world’s respect and his fortune when he vomited in the pool during the 400 meter relay. Don’t worry, it gets better.
Efron has difficulty fitting in on the team as firstly, he struggles from being as self-centered as 18-year-old Justin Bieber was, and his inability to comprehend why Baywatch tackles real crimes instead of telling little kids not to ingest seaweed. What real crimes, you ask? A massive underground drug ring run by the megalomaniacal Priyanka Chopra in which a series of clubs and seafood restaurants smuggle in a fictional drug called “Flaca,” which Johnson describes as being as bad as “bath salts on meth.” When the real police don’t believe the lifeguards that there are nefarious deeds afoot, they must become vigilantes, going against the law to bring these drug dealers to justice. I have not made any of this up. Does that sound stupid to you? Well don’t worry, it’s not just you. Here’s the unfortunate truth of the matter though: It actually could have worked. Baywatch desperately wants to be 21 Jump Street, a film that is universally loved by everyone who saw it, including myself. The only problem is, it has nowhere near the talent in the writing department that 21 Jump Street had. The Jump Street films were written and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, a comedy duo that consistently churn out homeruns thanks to their natural comedic talent and style. Without them, Jump Street never would have worked, neither would 2014’s The Lego Movie. If you remove them from the equation, you get a film that is the flop everyone expected those two to be: hence Baywatch, and, granted I may be speaking a bit preemptively here, this year’s The Emoji Movie.
The fault, dear reader, lies not in our stars, as their charisma is turned up way beyond 11. If there are two actors that I would follow into the worst film ever made and come out still having been entertained, it is Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. These two individuals are some of the most charismatic people on the planet, so when the both of them are put together, it should have been a recipe for success. Unfortunately, they are fed scenarios that really are the bottom of the barrel. Johnson tricks Efron into fondling a dead man’s scrotum, Efron uses his binoculars to perv on women from across the beach, and the entire situation of Efron vomiting in a pool is considered momentous enough to be recognized as a major plot point. It’s a plot point. He vomits in a pool and it is what drives him throughout the entire film. At its core this film is an action comedy, so even if the writers couldn’t figure out how to write jokes, at least they probably could write some pretty decent action scenes, right? No. Dead wrong, in fact. The “crime” scenes in this movie are like pulling teeth. There are these two token bad guys that they keep running into who literally don’t do anything. They’re always either punching a protagonist and then running away, saying something asinine and then running away, or literally nothing at all and then running away. They have weapons that they only use if the main characters are too far away to get a shot in and perpetrate crimes in the most illogical ways possible.
Honestly, if you are a fan of sophomoric humor, then you’ll probably enjoy this movie. If like me, you find it to be expressly juvenile, then it’s most likely in your best interest to skip this one. There are a few moments that are genuinely funny, but for the most part, it’s incredibly puerile, and in the worst way possible. Johnson and Efron are as entertaining as ever, and the filmmakers work very hard to make sure every frame is full of attractive people, so you can find some ways to stay awake, but realistically it’s just not a good film.
All images are from Baywatch, a film by Paramount Pictures