Baywatch (2017) Review

SHALLOW WATERS


 One word…Baywatch. The show, which was created back in 1989 by Michael Berk, Douglas Schwartz, and Gregory J. Bonann, follows a team of Los Angeles County Lifeguards (led by David Hasselhoff’s Mitch Buchannon) as they patrol their shores of Emerald Bay (and later Hawaii) from natural disasters, shark attacks, serial killers, and saving lives in the process. Originally, the show only ran for one season (being cancelled by its original backer NBC) before being picked up again, running for another nine more seasons and spanning the entire length of the 90s era of television, with additional material added with a spin-off show (Baywatch Nights) and three movies. Now, almost sixteen years after the show ended, Paramount Pictures and director Seth Gordon revamp this once popular TV show series with the film Baywatch. Is this film worth seeing or does it drowning underneath its own insurmountable follies?

THE STORY


A stretch beach in California belongs to Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson), who maintains the safety of its visitors with his Baywatch crew, including C.J. Parker (Kelly Rohrbach) and Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera).  Looking for some new recruits to fill three empty slots on the team, Mitch welcomes the additions, finding strength in Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) and the determination / tech abilities of goofy Ronnie (Jon Bass). Unfortunately, third open position is granted (by Mitch’s superior) to Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a disgraced Olympic swimmer. Stuck with this arrogant hothead, Mitch begins a series of challenges to show what it means to a Baywatch lifeguard, with the two butting heads frequently. As the unit trains and gels (Matt taking a shine to Summer and Ronnie bumbling in showing his affection for C.J.) trouble brews as bags of powerful drugs keep washing on the beach, while club owner Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) attempts to claim real estate by force, planning something big for Emerald Bay.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


While I wasn’t a super-diehard fan of the show, I do remember seeing Baywatch here and there when it aired. I remember watching when I was in middle school, but I don’t exactly remember the episodes quite well as I only remember of a few snippets here and there of the main show. I primarily remember seeing the episodes of the main series (underneath the original Baywatch name) as I didn’t make it far enough when the show switched to Baywatch Hawaii or even its spin-off show Baywatch Nights. However, it is a test of the show’s achievement for enduring so long and being beloved by its fan-base. So, in a nutshell, I do remember seeing the show, but wasn’t a complete fan of it. Suffice to say, I wasn’t surprised that Hollywood was gonna do film adaptation of the Baywatch show, with the market already delivering several movies that were based on old TV shows, including 21 Jump Street, Starsky and Hutch, and CHiPs. With its marketing campaign, which highlight the comedy team up of Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, rolling out, many saw Baywatch to be the next big action-comedy feature of the year. Unfortunately, after seeing the movie, those pre-conceived notions fall flat as Baywatch is just another generic raunchy comedy endeavor that’s doesn’t allow its own narrative to rise above its shallow endeavors. It may not be the absolute worst movie of the year, but its definitely a contender.

Baywatch is directed by Seth Gordon, whose previous works includes such films like Identity Thief, Four Christmases, and Horrible Bosses. Without the background in several comedy films, Gordon would be a perfect fit in directing such a movie. Unfortunately, Gordon’s endeavor in crafting Baywatch is lacking and doesn’t rise to challenge the status quo of similar movies. The film’s actions sequences, while nothing grand, do feel the better part of the feature (more so than the comedy aspect). There’s a couple of chase scenes and shootouts that do prove to be effect, especially thanks to Gordon’s cinematographer Eric Steelberg who proves to have several nifty shots of those action scenes and some underwater shots. In addition to the film’s few positives, is the music, both in the score (composed by Christopher Lennertz) and in its song selection.

Unfortunately, Baywatch, despite its narrative premise at trying to be the next big action-comedy film, fails miserable from start to finish. As a whole, the movie just feels shallow and lackadaisical, consisting of material that’s both unoriginal and unfunny. While the TV show’s episodic narratives weren’t exactly original or compelling, it was still enjoyable. The film’s script, which was penned by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, doesn’t have a lot to offer, feeling like a “shell of a story” and barely enough to fill its runtime. Also, it seems that the film’s budget was blown on getting Johnson and Efron as some of the film’s effects (most notably with a boat being on fire) seems pretty fake, with some poorly rendered CG fire effects. Even the action and comedy aspect seemed weak and felt to conflict with one another. Speaking of unfunny, the movie comedy aspect is, for the most part, bland. There’s a lot penis jokes / low-brow comedy gags that can be funny (giving to the right deliver and sharp writing), but Baywatch doesn’t do that, finding its comedy routine boring and not funny. There are a couple of gags that I did chuckle at, but that was few and far between. The movie even tries to riff on the original TV show’s usage “slow-motion” effects, but even that feels overused and a bit forced in trying to pull out a few laughs from its viewers.

As one can quickly summarize, Baywatch is trying to be very much like 2012’s Jump Street (i.e. based off of an old TV show that’s trying to speak to a modern audience by being R-rated action-comedy endeavor). However, while 21 Jump Street found the right amount of balance in its categories (action, comedy, drama, etc.) to become a popular film that year (and even spawn a sequel a few years later), Baywatch doesn’t seem to have Jump Street’s “mojo” or even its overall freshness. To be honest, Baywatch seems mostly like a retread of 21 Jump Street’s narrative structure, with two protagonist characters that don’t get along and ultimately must work together (cohesively) and keeping the drugs off the beach instead of in a high school. You can see the parallels between them. Thus, this makes the movie predictable, formulaic, and uninteresting. So, in short, while trying to be like 21 Jump Street, Baywatch ultimately ends up being like 2004’s Starsky & Hutch or even this year’s CHiPs.

The cast in Baywatch has some recognizable names and familiar faces that make up the various the film’s variable character. Perhaps the brightest spot of the movie goes to its leading men, finding actors Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Zac Efron at the heart of the film as Mitch Buchannon and Matt Brody. As to be expected, both of them bring their inherit charisma and playfulness to these raunchy comedies roles, finding Johnson, known for his roles in Central Intelligence, Moana, and several Fast and the Furious films, to be the charming and widely beloved leader Mitch, while Efron, known for Neighbors, 17 Again, and the High School Musical movies, brings the required bash and arrogant persona with Brody. Unfortunately, while Johnson and Efron have a capable dynamic (both in their characters and in their on-screen performances) the writing for their respective characters isn’t very strong nor compelling (I.e. Mitch’s life is consumed by his duties as a lifeguard, while Brody has a glossed over backstory arc). In addition, Efron’s Brody seems derivate from many of the actor’s past roles (the cocky and arrogant pretty boy), which makes the character boring and somewhat of a rehash. Thus, Johnson’s Mitch shines better than Efron’s Brody. However, both character roles are subpar and there’s really nothing to rave about them.

Beyond the two leads, the only other character that shines (a bit) in the movie is the film’s villain Victoria Leeds, who is played by actress Priyanka Chopra. Chopra, known for her roles on the TV Quantico, definitely looks the part of a female villain and does seem to relish this particular role, chewing through her lines whenever she’s on-screen. However, much like the rest of this movie, the character of Victoria Leeds is just a “cookie cutter” villain that doesn’t have much depth beyond what’s presented. So, basically Victoria is just another “run-of-the-mill” baddie. For the most part, the supporting characters are just as shallow and dimly lit beyond their initial character traits. Jon Bass (Loving and All Nighter) tries too much to be like Josh Gad in his portrayal of Ronnie and, despite being bit more integral to some of the narrative elements, becomes such a bumbling goofy that can’t quite land his comedic jokes (both due to Bass’s comedy timing / deliver and the film’s script). The other lifeguards on the Baywatch (the female ones) fare even worse, finding Kelly Rohrbach (Broad City and Café Society) C.J. Parker, Alexandra Daddario (San Andreas and Percy Jackson), and Ilfenesh Hadera (Old Boy and Billions) to be objectively beautiful for the camera in their roles of C.J. Parker, Summer Quinn, and Stephanie Holden. In truth, these three characters are more subservient to the male roles (Mitch, Brody, and Ronnie) rather than being fully fleshed out characters. Sure, all three are pretty and beautiful, but that’s pretty much it (a bit back step for the “strong female” archetype). Other noteworthy supporting characters include Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (The Get Down) as the police Sgt. Ellerbee, Rob Huebel (Keanu and How to be a Latin Lover) as Captain Thorpe, and Oscar Nunez (The Office and The Proposal) as Councilman Rodriguez.

Lastly, as to be somewhat expected, Baywatch does make a cameo appearance from two former cast members of the original show. Yes, I’m talking about David Hasselhoff and Pamela Andersen. While this may be a spoiler for some, it clear isn’t as the movie even puts both Hasselhoff and Andersen’s names in the opening title credits (along with the rest of the cast). Though this may be a minor negative, but that’s pretty stupid for them to do that. Even the cameo appearance themselves are pretty pointless and are not even fun.

FINAL THOUGHTS


Mitch Buchannon, Matt Brody, and the rest of their unit hit the beach in the film Baywatch. Director Seth Gordon’s newest movie attempts to follow in the footsteps of 2012’s Jump Street, with its star power, action-comedy angst, and its roots within a once popular TV show. Unfortunately, beyond Johnson and Efron (and the few gags that do land) the movie itself is superficial bro comedy-adventure that, due its generic premise, unfunny / lackadaisical humor, and underdeveloped supporting characters, never quite manages to reach its intended goals. To me, this movie was just bad. It wasn’t the acting or anything like that, but the entire movie just felt completely shallow and bland in almost every category. As you might expect, my recommendation for this movie is definitely a hard “skip it” as its definitely not worth seeing (even if you’re of two main stars of the film). To wrap this all up, neither Johnson or Efron, or even the TV show’s legacy can save Baywatch from drowning in its own shallow waters and becoming a movie flop.

2.3 Out of 5 (Skip It)

 

Released On: May 25th, 2017
Reviewed On: June 6th, 2017

Baywatch  is 116 minutes long and is rated R for language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity

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