Review: ‘Baywatch’ (2017)

Baywatch | Seth Gordon | May 25th, 2017

Baywatch has been a staple of American culture since its debut in 1989, but it’s slept dormant for a very long time. Moving with the trend of revitalizing old television shows, this 2017 film adaptation takes some essence of the past and mixes it with modern comedic flavors. But, despite the star-studded cast, it may not save any lives.

Dwayne Johnson has taken up the watch from David Hasselhoff as Mitch Buchannon, leader of the Baywatch team. Dwayne is the de facto King of Hollywood at the moment, and he is, essentially, the anchor of the film both narratively and in the cast. That’s really what these comedies boil down to: chemistry between the cast. Zac Efron is pretty much a perfect casting parity and works wonderfully alongside Dwayne, but this points out the film’s first flaw. Between Efron’s otherworldly looks and Alexandra Daddario’s piercing blue eyes, there’s enough eye candy to go around for those of all orientations. However, it’s very much a “boy’s club” in terms of the comedy. All of the female characters are underutilized and feel entirely secondary. This wouldn’t be such an issue, seeing as 21 Jump Street (2012) was carried by Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill by design, but the entire premise of Baywatch’s story claims to be around “teamwork”… but the practice does not match the preaching. There was just a big opportunity here for the writers to do something new, and they missed it.

Baywatch still - Zac Efron, Dwayne Johnson, and Alexandra Daddario

I guarantee Baywatch will be one of those movies that’s polarized between fans and critics. Despite not being the renaissance of comedy, it has some very funny moments. Anyone who knows me personally knows I don’t particularly seek out comedy films, but I even noticed a few subtle, clever jokes – oft unspoken – that made me feel like there was effort put into the direction. This isn’t director Seth Gordon’s first rodeo–he’s done Horrible Bosses (2011), Identity Thief (2013), and the critically-acclaimed documentary King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007). In other spots, things fall very flat. If I get entirely picky, there are a couple spots in the production where voice lines are dubbed over and the mixing sounded off. That could also be a symptom of it being a pre-release screening, as multiple sound formats exist and it may not be the final mix. Most of the action scenes are well-staged and directed, giving the satisfaction of The Rock beating down bad guys its full glory.

You’ve got to treat Baywatch as what it is: A slick, stylized action-comedy. Keeping things in context is really important in gauging expectations. I enjoyed it. If you’re looking for some boobs, abs, fun and sun this Memorial Day Weekend, Baywatch will quench your thirst.

Rating: 6.0/10

Baywatch hits beaches (and theaters) on Thursday, May 25th, from Paramount Pictures.