BAYWATCH (3 out of 10) Directed by Seth Gordon; Written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift; Starring Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hadera, Jon Bass, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Hannibal Buress, Rob Huebel, Oscar Nuñez; Rated R for language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity; Runtime 116 minutes; In wide release May 26, 2017.
In the current Hollywood trend of remaking and rebooting every franchise that ever could stir even the tiniest twinge of nostalgia, it was inevitable that we would at some point get a Baywatch movie. And with as charismatic leads as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Zac Efron, it seemed possible that this could hit the same notes as the 21 Jump Street reboot.
While this tries to walk the line between action and comedy, the jokes fall flat, the action is ho-hum, and the literal best things about the movie are the often shirtless Johnson and Efron. But if that isn’t your particular cup of tea, there’s not much here for you.
Speaking of not much there, the plot is predictable. Johnson is Mitch, the legendary lifeguard of Emerald Bay. He and his team of Baywatch lifeguards protect the beaches, inexplicably, from all sorts of threats that the police, coast guard, and others seemingly should be taking care of. In the midst of recruiting new members of the team through open tryouts, they’re saddled with a cocky Olympic Gold Medalist (Efron) who doesn’t play well with others. But when drugs and dead bodies start washing up on their shores, they’ll have to learn to become a team to blah blah blah. . . and there’s slow mo running in bathing suits. I assume that’s why people come to this movie?
It’s not exciting. It’s not funny. It’s not sexy. Indeed, in an R-rated comedy based on a series best known for its exploitative T-and-A, all of the nudity is male, and none of it is sexy. One instance includes a lengthy shot of a corpse’s penis, and another is a shower scene involving a somewhat overweight male member of the team played for laughs -- with some problematic body-shaming elements.
One positive element to the film is that it has toned down the exploitative feel of the source material. The female leads are all competent, smart, and, for the most part, better at their jobs than their male counterparts. In one bright spot, they point out the unfairness of a promotion going to celebrity pretty boy Efron instead of another veteran female lifeguard. But even including a social commentary isn't enough to save this otherwise braindead "comedy."
Speaking of the film's treatment of women, I'm sure you noticed the film's R rating for "graphic nudity." Warning: If you go to this movie expecting boobs. . . you know there’s porn on the internet, right? Perhaps it’s for the best that there is no female nudity in the film, because in 2017 we really should know better than to so shamelessly exploit women’s’ bodies for the male gaze. But even the scenes involving shirtless Efron and Johnson aren’t particularly alluring (not that those would get an R rating, but they're the only thing that approaches sexiness in the film). This is nowhere near as fun nor sexy as a film like Magic Mike. The helicopter scene from last year’s Captain America: Civil War was far better.
Why did I spend so much time talking about nudity here? Because there just isn’t much to this movie, folks. It was questionable what the value of a Baywatch reboot was in the first place, and this doesn’t do anything to answer that question. This Memorial Day weekend, you’d be better off hitting the actual beach.
3 out of 10
Tags: dwayne johnson