Film review: BAYWATCH: by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

We shouldn’t expect much from a Baywatch cinema adaptation and this film certainly lives down to expectations. Often the problem with movies based on TV shows is that the filmmakers try to stuff the TV show’s concept into a generic action comedy template and in the process lose the show’s essence and appeal. It’s the same deal here except that, as the original Baywatch’s appeal was watching unnaturally good looking people cavorting about the beach in slow motion, it’s not like there was much to lose in the first place.

On one level this is a benign parody of the TV show but it’s mostly a dubious vehicle for its two stars Zac Efron and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Efron plays arrogant, ab-flexing pretty boy new-comer to the Baywatch lifesaving crew, Matt Brody. A former Olympic swimming gold medallist Brodie thinks lifeguarding will be a doddle. Determined to slap some sense into the grinning pipsqueak is head lifeguard Mitch Buchanan (‘The Rock’ taking the David Hasselhoff role). Much of the film revolves around their juvenile conflict as the enormous ‘Rock’ teaches the prima donna a few lessons about lifesaving and bicep curls. Of course, sleazy drug dealers and corrupt politicians give the two adversaries the opportunity to unite in a completely unconvincing action/ crime scenario.

Unfunny, lazily plotted and tonally confused as it stumbles from straight-up parody to juvenile farce to clunky action film to raunch comedy, Baywatch is another saddening example of the way Hollywood cynically churns out product designed to cash in on some vague nostalgia. Despite just about anyone who saw Baywatch in its original TV run being middle-aged now, most of the jokes are designed for undiscerning teens and usually involve painful things happening to genitalia; there’s even an appalling rip off of the much funnier ‘frank and beans’ sequence from There’s Something About Mary.

Despite the woeful script and the film’s general lack of comic inspiration, the ‘Rock’ still manages to exude some of his typical charisma as Mitch. Efron once again fails to keep his shirt on for more than five seconds although he’s ok as the victim of many of the film’s pratfall gags. The rest of the cast are given little to do and oddly, for a supposed comedy, there’s a comedy relief character in the form of a pudgy nerd who looks like a member of the band Ween.  While Alexandra Daddario as Summer Quinn plays a reasonably competent heroine, most of the females are simply treated as eye candy.

We shouldn’t expect state-of-the art production values from a dodgy TV adaptation but the action sequences and cgi effects in this film are remarkably unconvincing, particularly a scene of a rescue from a boat that’s on fire.

Out of pop cultural curiosity or perhaps the desire to ogle some flesh, people will probably see this film but they’re bound to be disappointed.

Nick’s rating: *1/2

Genre: Comedy.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): Seth Gordon.

Release date: 1st June 2017.

Running time: 119 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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