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Have you ever watched 21 Jump Street? No, not the late-’80s/early-’90s TV show, but the R-rated comedy reboot featuring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Well, mix that with the adrenaline-filled, family centered blockbuster Fate of the Furious, add one too many dick jokes, and you’ve seen Baywatch.
Unfortunately, whereas 21 Jump Street was able to manage building a serious plot line, despite the weird jokes and over-the-top action, Baywatch had no idea what to do beyond having Dwayne Johnson rag on Zac Efron and showcasing beautiful women bouncing in bikinis.
Baywatch may have failed to deliver an Oscar-worthy plot line, but they did select an all-star cast which made the film watchable—and easy on the eyes.
The movie starts off with a bang, paying homage to the show’s signature slo-mo style, showing an all-in-a-day’s work rescue by none other than Mitch Buchannon (Johnson). As the events climax, the movie’s title appears from the ocean in tacky grandeur while dolphins high-five one another behind Mitch, who’s carrying an injured parasailor to safety. Yes this is the intro to the movie, and, yes, it sums up about everything you are about to watch. Why? Because in Baywatch everything is bigger and better: the explosions, the muscles, “The Rock’s” “front bump”, other body parts, etc.
In the film, Johnson plays off his real-life “People’s Champion” persona, as his character is recognized as a local legend. Mitch’s lifeguarding unit, which already includes the stunning Stephanie Holen (Ilfenesh Hadera) and CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach), is looking for three new recruits. There is the beautiful bad-ass Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario), the eager and nerdy IT guy Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass), and the insanely ripped Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a cocky, disgraced Olympic swimmer.
All is good until drugs start to wash ashore and make their way into the bay community. Mitch then assembles his team to investigate the problem. Though not a typical lifeguard’s duty (as we are repeatedly reminded throughout the film), Mitch takes it upon himself to bring down the entire operation headed by the powerful Victoria Leeds (Bollywood star Prinyanka Chopra).
The film then takes you through a journey of Fast and Furious-esque, over-the-top action, followed by moments of absolute confusing silence. One second Johnson’s character is chasing a man on a jet ski and crashing into a child’s outdoor swingset, while the next Johnson is taken out of the plot almost entirely. Which is to say that Johnson’s presence keeps this movie from failing. In fact, it’s the cast that keeps the movie worth watching.
Which leads to the main thought: Baywatch‘s marketing campaign outperformed the movie itself. What looked like an amazing cast and concept on paper was botched by lack of a plot line and developed characters. The movie had potential to put itself into the same class as 21 Jump Street, but failed to do so. The comedy wasn’t very good; it was enough to make you smile, but fell short of belting laughter. Sure, there were a few good moments in the film, but dick jokes can only get you so far. But, on a positive note, if it at all matters, the music was exceptional—spot on, even.
Should you watch Baywatch? Personally, yes. Despite some of the film’s shortcomings, Baywatch is well worth a few hours of your time. Though it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I was definitely entertained for 166 minutes. Sure, it may have been because of “The Rock’s” charismatic charm; the beautiful scantily-clad women; and over-the-top action—but I’m okay with that.
Baywatch, directed by Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses), will hit theaters May 25.