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Baywatch is one of the most seminal shows of the 1990s. It is hard for anyone to even say the word Baywatch, without hearing the opening drum beats of the infamous theme song while picturing beautiful lifeguards running in slow motion while wearing their cherry red swimsuits. These are the images that I always associate with Baywatch and considering how massively popular the show was worldwide during its run, I’m pretty sure the rest of the world felt this way too. It’s’ too bad that the movie decided to ignore all of this and make a two-hour movie filled with unfunny one-liners and toilet humor.
Lieutenant Mitch Buchanan (Dwayne Johnson) is head lifeguard over the bay, he knows and has saved everyone. He and his team Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera), C.J. (Kelly Rohrbach) take on new recruits, Summer (Alexandria Daddario), Ronnie (Jon Bass) and Matt Brody (Zac Efron). Mitch finds out that Matt, a former Olympic champion, has been added to the team for publicity purposes. Due to Matt’s cockiness, the two butt heads. Together, the team discovers that there is a new drug dealer in town (Priyanka Chopra) who wreaks havoc and threatens the future of the bay. And being lifeguards, not policemen, the team sets out to take the dealer down.
When Baywatch was originally on the air, one of the tropes that it was known for was that the lifeguards would get involved in these ridiculous scenarios, that would cause them to act more like police detectives rather than lifeguards, which is explored in detail in the film. It’s ridiculous and should have been treated as such, but its’ almost as if the film got bored of itself. There are two incredibly long sequences involving private parts that do absolutely nothing to further the plot. The villain is boring and uninteresting so the audience stops caring about exactly what she’s doing. Johnson and Efron keep filling time by trading unfunny insults and with the exception of Efron and unfortunately, Jon Bass, the supporting characters are completely underutilized. Jon Bass’s character Ronnie is supposed to be the underdog who cannot believe he is in the company of the gods, which in theory should lead to awkward hijinks but every time he came on screen and did something it was the equivalent of a very nervous stand-up comic being on stage for the first time, telling his first joke and hearing crickets.
Efron’s character Matt Brody, starts off as cocky and downright stupid and by the end of the movie he’s an entirely different person. And it’s not a character arc, he doesn’t have any scenes that showcase any growth or maturity. In the beginning of the film he barely gets a joke and in the end he’s helping to foil a criminal plot. His character is also a little too serious at times. Which is welcome during most circumstances, but in this, it is frighteningly out of place.
And there’s really not much to say about Johnson. He, just like Efron, is very charismatic and likable. But that’s it. He’s all charm here and not much else.
In short, Baywatch is a mess. It takes a golden opportunity to take probably one of the most made fun of shows in the history of television and makes it painful sit through. Don’t watch.