This review was written for and appears on Punch Drunk Movies. Check out the site when you have a chance.
“It’s in no hurry to get anywhere, is it?” I scribbled into my notes for “Baywatch,” the new comedy based on the TV show of the same name.
A measured pace could be a benefit, though, if the film uses that time wisely. Further down the page, when I indulged the impulse to doodle, I realized that, nope, it wasn’t going to use its time wisely. Not only was the movie not in a rush to get anywhere, it was in no hurry to be funny or even the least bit entertaining on the way.
The movie stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Lieutenant Mitch Buchannon, a supremely dedicated lifeguard who runs his branch like a tight ship. Shaking up that simile is the arrival of Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a brash (read: arrogant) two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner/swimmer, who is forced onto Mitch by his superior (Rob Huebel) in an effort to drum up publicity. The mismatched duo naturally butt heads but learn to work together when a criminal operation begins flooding their beach with drugs.
The cast is appealing and certainly photogenic, and the film makes good on the promise of showing their nubile bodies, covered only in the barest of swimsuits, glistening and jiggling while running in slow-motion along the beach, something that the “Baywatch” TV show is best known for. So, there’s eye candy at least. It’s not much, but better than nothing, and just about the only praise I’ve got.
Outside of showcasing their looks, every actor is wasted. Alexandra Daddario (I’m not bothering to list the character names anymore. No one actually plays a character) is allowed to do one thing: look surprised. Efron, who has proven to be likable in other roles, is supposed to be cool and cocky but is just a jerk for far too long. And “The Rock,” well, he basically comes out unscathed. He’s fun. (How does he do it?) Though at a runtime of an unbearable two hours (why! why!! does a “Baywatch” movie have to be two hours long?), even his ingratiating cool gets old; it just takes a little longer to happen.
I could forgive just about anything in a comedy like “Baywatch” if it got one thing right: the humor. But it’s just not funny. A character (Jon Bass) is aroused by the sight of a beautiful lifeguard (Kelly Rohrbach), tries to hide his embarrassment by diving onto a recliner, and promptly gets his genitals stuck between the wooden slats. Five minutes are then spent on trying to get his junk out of the chair. Sigh.
Director Seth Gordon can’t even decide what type of comedy he’s making. In the opening, Johnson, after saving a drowning paraglider, comes out of the ocean in slow motion (natch), his latest save draped over his arms, as the title, in huge, CGI block letters, reveals itself from within an incoming tidal wave looming behind. Then, a pod of dolphin jumps out of the water and dances around the title. It’s an over the top, “Airplane”-esque moment of parody, and, yes, kind of funny, but nothing that follows is in that comedic realm. It’s just a gross-out comedy from that point on.
In an almost sadistic need to watch a potentially bad movie, I asked to review “Baywatch.” That impulse was rewarded in full. The movie reminded me of “CHIPS,” another remake of a cheesy TV show that I reviewed not too long ago. That’s not a good thing. But “CHIPS” at least made me laugh. At my screening of “Baywatch,” it was clear the audience wanted to laugh, but the movie wasn’t giving them a reason to. Soon, a palpable tension hung in the air as we become more and more restless. No, “Baywatch” isn’t as bad as “CHIPS.” It’s worse.