As expected, there’s not much more to the new Baywatch movie than a line-up of buff bods and cheap laughs.
Directed by Seth Gordon, the action-comedy is based on the popular ’90s TV series famed for outlandish storylines and good-looking cast, who included David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson.
For the reboot, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson takes on David’s character Mitch Buchannon, the leader of an elite group of California lifeguards, including C.J. Parker (Kelly Rohrbach), Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera) and Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario).
The crew faces a shake-up with the arrival of Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a former Olympic swimmer who has fallen from grace after vomiting during a race and now has to complete community service as part of a plea deal.
Matt’s casual attitude to work rubs Mitch up the wrong way, but the team comes together when small bags of drugs start washing ashore, and begin pursuing local club owner Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) as the likely ringleader of an international smuggling operation.
Springboarding off the TV series, Damian Shannon and Mark Swift’s screenplay incorporates numerous Baywatch tropes and draws on several key themes, such as teamwork, heroism, and a desire to protect America’s borders.
The story is also interspersed with references to the iconic aspects of the TV show, with the obligatory shots of castmembers running in slow motion or posing beachside in red swimsuits.
That said, the scenes on the beach and at sea are the most exciting, including a sequence where the lifeguards are called into action when a private yacht catches fire, during which Matt disobeys orders and dives directly under the flames, nearly drowning before Stephanie and C.J. come to his rescue.
But less convincing are moments where the lifeguards act as crime investigators, and the narrative at times borders on the ridiculous.
At one point Summer and Matt are able to go unseen while infiltrating a local hospital where they record two of Victoria’s henchmen planting a falsified autopsy report to cover up the fact that a local councilman was murdered on her orders.
And the film can’t help but add in a series of lame gags, including a moment where chubby tech geek Ronnie (Jon Bass) tries to hide an erection from C.J., and Mitch forcing Matt to poke a male corpse’s genitals during a visit to a morgue.
In spite of the implausible plot, the movie is held together by the main actors, with Dwayne injecting his star power into every scene. His dialogue with Zac is particularly sharp, with the High School Musical alumni’s character drawing some laughs by cleverly sending up the cockiness of swimmer Ryan Lochte and singer Justin Bieber.
Dwayne and Zac would also outshine Greek gods when it comes to bodybuilding, with both actors proudly displaying their muscles scene after scene.
Even so, the director can’t help but focus the gaze at the female cast’s bodies, with the camera constantly panning over the women’s athletic physiques and Victoria’s cleavage-baring gowns.
This is at least tempered with a couple of decent lines, with the villainous Victoria commenting at one point, “If I were a man, you would call me driven.”
The rest of the cast are fairly forgettable, with Kelly’s C.J., unfortunately, falling into the dumb blonde stereotype, and Stephanie and Summer simply there to act as potential love interests.
In all, Baywatch best fits within the mindless viewing category, though longtime fans will no doubt enjoy a few moments of nostalgia, especially when it comes to the cameo appearances.
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