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‘Baywatch’ Review

An R-rated reboot plays its best joke on the audience

Kelly Rohrbach
• May 30, 2017 5:00 am

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Baywatch opens with a shot of The Rock carrying a person out of the water in slo-mo as the title drops from the heavens with a tremendous thud and dolphins leap out of the water in celebration. There may have been fireworks; I can't remember. If the movie had adopted this sort of aggressive ridiculousness throughout, it would have been much improved. Alas, Baywatch is, sadly, just kind of dull.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars as Mitch, a lifeguard beloved by the people. Unfortunately, he doesn't quite grok that "lifeguard" and "beach cop" aren't synonyms. He's forced by his higher ups to bring disgraced Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron) onto the team in an effort to increase publicity—because beaches and lifeguards need publicity, I guess? Brody's a bad boy, a dumber Ryan Lochte, and he bridles under Mitch's efforts to teach him how to be a proper lifeguard; he'll have to learn to be part of a team while training with Summer (Alexandra Daddario) and Ronnie (Jon Bass).

CJ (Kelly Rohrbach) and Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera) round out the Baywatch team, which is forced to figure out why drugs keep washing up on their beach even as city councilmen suspiciously die and local property owners go missing. All signs point to the snooty owner of the local private club, Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), who we immediately learn is in fact behind all the villainy, because suspense is overrated.

The plot is beside the point, of course; we're here for bodacious bods and hilarious hijinks. One out of two ain't bad, I guess. Director Seth Gordon and the … geez, one, two, three, four, five, six! Six credited writers! Anyway, these seven individuals don't seem to know if this is an over-the-top farce mining nostalgia along the lines of 21 Jump Street or a more straightforward action-comedy. The jokes, such as they are, are all kind of lame—we literally spend five minutes with a guy whose dick and balls get stuck in the slats of a beach chair because he jumped into the chair after getting a hard-on from talking to CJ for a minute. Who needs witty dialogue or clever physical comedy when you can just jam genitals into furniture?

Johnson has taken to social media to say that movies such as these are for "the fans" and not snooty critics, and maybe he's right. After all, the best joke in the movie is one that comes at the expense of fans.

To wit: Baywatch is a syndicated TV show best known for its bikini-clad starlets prancing around on the beach, a soft-core offering to teen male libido idly flipping past the USA Network at 3 PM on a Saturday afternoon in the mid-1990s. The film, meanwhile, promised to kick things up a notch, with its R rating and warning of "crude sexual content and graphic nudity." The horny 14-year-old in all of us undoubtedly wondered what magic was in store for those who dared venture into the water.

I imagine, then, that these folks were rolling in the aisles when they discovered graphic nudity meant "a fat dude's ass and a corpse's penis." Pulling one over on the fans like that is a pretty good gag!

Hey, if that's what "the fans" want, more power to the minds behind Baywatch; lord knows I've never exactly been in touch with the people. They seem to be fine with the slop shoveled in their buckets. For what it's worth, I saw the movie with the Free Beacon‘s Truth Monkey. He gave it two bananas up.

Published under: Movie Reviews