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Monday, May 29, 2017




Baywatch is like a fish pulled out of the water, flapping around hopelessly on a boat deck. Even the visuals miss the boat: If one thinks hard of the "classic" TV series and can see past the image of the buxom lifeguards in their high-cut red swimsuits, one recalls the bright blue skies and sun-kissed California beaches the show was set in. The Seth Gordon-directed feature film, set in "Emerald Bay," substitutes South Beach and Savannah, Georgia for Malibu, and the dreariness speaks for itself. Only a small percentage of the movie takes place in South Beach, or on the beach in general, and somehow they forgot to shoot scenes when the sun is out. Most of Baywatch takes place in Savannah and comes off more like the ill-fated spinoff Baywatch Nights, with the lifeguards performing a lot of nocturnal undercover detective work in a nonsensical plot the movie takes great pains to try to explain - as if anyone in the audience cares for even an instant.

In spite of its enduring 1990's camp value, the Baywatch television series was never technically a comedy. So I suppose it's fitting that Baywatch the movie isn't either, though it would be surprised to learn such. In Baywatch, Dwayne Johnson plays Mitch Buchanan, the hero of the beach. Johnson is in full-on Samoan Thor alpha male mode, which rankles new recruit Zac Efron, who plays former two-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming Matt Brody. There are fleeting jokes surrounding Efron not being very bright but overall the main joke driven into the sand is Efron being utterly baffled that Johnson and his Baywatch brigade think being lifeguards requires them to perform routine crime-fighting duties best left to the police. If they'd kept the action confined to the sandy shores, Baywatch might have tread water safely. Instead, the plot plunges headlong into an endless and immensely boring investigation of Priyanka Chopra's nefarious activities. She's running some sort of drug smuggling deal concurrent with some kind of real estate swindle. It doesn't make sense, and it doesn't matter, but it's the most important thing to the Baywatch lifeguards to stop and it eats up most of the movie's 2 hour run time. (That's two episodes of the old TV show, of which most people could only endure watching a few minutes at a time. Guess which scenes. Meanwhile, Baywatch the movie is at pains to provide any of those scenes.)

As Johnson and Efron take turns dominating the screen, languishing off to the side being utterly under-utilized are the three female Baywatch babes: Kelly Rohrbach as CJ Parker, Alexandra Daddario as Summer Quinn, and Ilfenesh Hadera as Stephanie Holden. Combined, they have virtually nothing to do except stand around and give reaction shots as Johnson and Efron muscle each other across center stage. Daddario fares the best of the three, in that Gordon's camera realizes her expressive blue eyes give off the best reaction shots. Meanwhile, the comic relief Jon Bass heroically provides struggles mightily to register in a film that has zero understanding of comedic timing, how to stage suspenseful action sequences, or even competent editing. Dutiful walk-on cameos are provided to Baywatch's two greatest icons, David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson, and even these make zero sense as The Hoff and Pam are also playing Mitch Buchanan and CJ Parker. Not that it matters to Baywatch, which manages to be both desperately unfunny and bewilderingly unsexy; an R rated slog that is under the mistaken impression anyone at all turned up to see Zac Efron diddling a bare penis in a morgue. Baywatch ends up being an utter waste of a valuable beach day