Thursday, June 8, 2017

Aiming For Humor, Baywatch Plays Down To Its Low Expectations.

The Good: The acting is not, actually, terrible
The Bad: Obvious character arcs, Predictable plot, Not actually funny
The Basics: Baywatch is about as bad as one might expect it to be.

My wife has had Futurama on as our background show while we sit together and work in our living room. I was amused when Pamela Anderson's head popped up early in the series to reference the Baywatch movie, the first film to be shown in all slow motion. The joke was enough to get me to bother with the theatrical release film version of Baywatch.

I was not a fan of the television show Baywatch, but it was on quite a bit when I was childsitting in the 90s, as my charge liked it. So, I had a pretty basic idea of who the characters were in Baywatch and the basic plot when I went into the new Baywatch film. And yeah, it's about as good and as bad as one might expect of a movie based upon the television show Baywatch. Baywatch is an R-rated comedy and it very quickly lives up to that with multiple characters saying "fuck" pretty early in the film to establish the tone.

The Emerald Bay lifeguards under the leadership of Lieutenant Mitch Buchannon and Stephanie Holden are holding their annual lifeguard try-outs with an uncommon three positions available. Ronnie Greenbaum, a generally out-of-shape young man who has a crush on lifeguard C.J. Parker, and Summer Quinn are among those competing for one of the three positions. Leading up to the try-outs, Mitch notices an increase in the drug Flaca literally floating into his beachfront. Mitch is also saddled with Matt Brody, a past Olympic swimmer, appearing and telling him that he has been assigned to the baywatch. Mitch and Stephanie reject the idea that he was assigned without him having to try out. Matt actually manages to prove himself as having potential to be a good lifeguard, so he joins the team.

While Ronnie, Summer and Matt are trained, Emerald Bay falls prey to the machinations of Victoria Leeds, a woman who owns a local club and is in the process of bribing a city councilman for a real estate deal. When the Councilman fails to deliver, he winds up dead and the Emerald Bay lifeguards become involved when his body is disposed of on a flaming boat with a handful of women who are aboard the boat when it is blown up. While the lifeguards protect swimmers, sailors, and sunbathers from drowning, thieves and accidents, they work to thwart Leeds's plans and stop the drugs that are being smuggled through the beach.

Baywatch is not at all intended to be high-minded or complex. Instead, it plays off the nostalgia for 90's television, much the way 21 Jump Street (reviewed here!) did before it. Baywatch shakes up the familiar slow-running, boobs(!), formula by adding an element of crude humor. The humor is generic - Ronnie falls on a wooden walkway and gets his penis and balls lodged between two slats, Mark is pranked to fondle a corpse - and not overly funny.

Baywatch is a flick that follows the predictable formula otherwise. The movie includes several rescues, characters running in slow motion and plenty of plot conceits that (regardless of what the characters within the movie argue) should be handled by the Coast Guard, FBI and/or local police. Baywatch is momentarily fun in that it references its own plot faults and its own appeal. Alexandra Daddario's Summer calls out Mark for checking out her breasts, for example.

The character arcs and plot conceits are both fairly predictable; Baywatch is not seeking to redefine its own appeal, rather play to its base. That said, the performers in Baywatch do a decent job with the material they are given. Dwayne Johnson does fine as Mitch, though it is not a role that requires him to actually utilize much of his range, and he gets through the physical aspects of the role without any apparent strain. Zac Efron bulked up for the role of Mark and he is credible in the role of an arrogant athlete who feels entitled to his position. Ilfenesh Hadera has a delivery that lends authority to her lines and Priyanka Chopra is a very good villain as Leeds. Alexandra Daddario has had vastly more complicated roles than her position in Baywatch as Summer, but she does what she can with the material she is given. Similarly, Kally Rohrbach and Jon Bass might have a painfully obvious arc to play, but Bass does fine as the butt of a lot of jokes and Rohrbach manages to appear sympathetic to his character.

Ultimately, Baywatch is exactly the type of vacuous comedy audiences expect of a comedy competing during Summer Blockbuster Season; it is not intended to be great or even enduring entertainment, but it is enough to justify spending a couple bucks on for people who don't have air conditioners at home.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Wonder Woman
Alien: Covenant
Guardians Of The Galaxy, Volume 2


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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