Film Review – Baywatch (2017)

The original television show was not noted for its subtlety, ingenuity or its contributions to legitimate drama. Baywatch was a television show about some beach lifeguards who worked at the beach, hung out at the beach, kept bathers safe, regularly thwarted criminal gangs, responded to major disasters both natural and man-made and bonded on the sands of Los Angeles’ pristine beaches.

The chief pleasure was not the nuances of plot though; it was the opportunity to gawp at a load of hot people loping around in tight-fitting Lyrca or shorts. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise, it was above all else a chance to admire Michael Bergin’s washboard abs or Yasmine Bleeth’s arse.

Hollywood has been hard at work in recent years, channel-hopping and mining the small screen’s back catalogue for movie adaptations. The A Team, CHiPS and Dukes of Hazzard have all made the move to cinemas either recently or semi-recently. And the Baywatch reboot/update/re-imagining looks to the follow tonal footsteps of the 21 Jump Street movies and, cast your mind back to 2004, the perfectly adequate Starsky & Hutch adaptation. It’s a broad-humoured, often pretty crass adaptation that adamantly refuses to challenge or surprise, but does, crucially, provide its audience with essentially everything that its small-screen predecessor did. Namely, nice abs and arses dotted around a superfluous plot involving drugs at the seaside.

Dwayne Johnson is filling David Hasselhoff’s shorts, so to speak, as the new, younger, infinitely bulkier Mitch, leader of the Baywatch lifeguards. He’s passionate about his job and introduced in the movie’s opening moments as pretty much the nicest man in the world. He takes on a bunch of new recruits including Zac Efron’s self-centred Olympic swimmer, incapable of working as part of a team, and Jon Bass as a doughy try-hard with an eye for Kelly Rohrbach’s experienced lifesaver.

When it does work to a degree, it’s when all pretences of seriousness are lost and the childish, Farrelly brothers-esque comedy is pushed to the foreground. Modestly entertaining moments include Bass’s cock and balls caught in a bench and Efron being sick in a swimming pool before fondling the scrotum of a corpse. When it’s played for utterly dumb laughs, it’s halfway to being bearable; the trouble is that too often, clearly when the jokes run out, it falls back on crushingly dull action set pieces and a final third that seems to be played oddly straight-faced.

Without the jokes, there’s nowhere for the script to hide and even the general likeability of Dwayne Johnson can’t hold the mess together.

Baywatch the movie, like the TV show, was never meant to provide food for thought, it was meant to be a moderately diverting romp featuring a lot of visible flesh. On those terms, like its predecessor, it’s almost a success.

When the gags dry up and plot creaks into action, the site of some bulging biceps or some perky tits isn’t really enough though. Not particularly good, but how great did you honestly think it would be?

| Chris Banks

Comedy, Action | USA, 2017 | 15| 29th May 2017 (UK) | Paramount Pictures | Dir.Seth Gordon | Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach

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