May 28, 2017
There have been many great cinematic comedy duos throughout the years: Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, Wilder & Pryor, Farley & Spade. Johnson & Efron will not make this list. Another classic cinema trope is the slow motion shot of a bathing-suited beauty running on the beach a la Bo Derek in 10. In honor of that, here is our list of the top 10 reasons not to go see Baywatch (unless you’re into that sort of thing).
10.) The Lazy Writing
I mean, I know it’s Baywatch, but what looked like a good plan and an ingenious marketing campaign all lead to what is essentially the story of dumb lifeguards chasing dumber crooks. It’s a narrative pancake, absolutely not what you would call a “smart” comedy, and while there are a decent amount of laughs, there are an equal amount of jokes, if not more so, that fall completely flat.
9.) The Reboot-iness of It All
Bygone TV shows that become – or attempt to become – movie franchises are rarely good (see: The Dukes of Hazzard, Charlie’s Angels, Scooby Doo). For fans of the long-running original series, the main characters do have the same names as the originals and there are several references to TV subplots, described as “highly entertaining but extremely far-fetched” with tongue planted firmly in cheek, and of course plenty of slo-mo beach running.
8.) Been There, Laughed at That
Gross-out gags are a staple of most modern comedies, but a lot of those in Baywatch are simply retreads of stunts pulled in much-better earlier fare like There’s Something About Mary or The Goonies.
7.) The Misleading R-Rating
“Language throughout” means a couple of F-bombs, and they’re not even necessary or effectively placed. There is “crude sexual content” but certainly no more so than in most PG-13 comedies these days; and all sex takes place off-screen. Finally, “graphic nudity” includes no boobs! The nudity is of the male variety and it’s on camera for a good while. So, an R-rated Baywatch movie with no boobs? That’s like an R-rated Game of Thrones movie with no… dragons!
6.) The Waffling Tone
I get that it’s tough to walk the fine line between action and comedy. Movies like Rush Hour and The Other Guys were able to pull it off, but there are far more who have failed miserably. Baywatch spends half of its time on slapstick and the other half on [supposedly] serious action, but does neither especially well.
5.) Ef You, Zac!
I’ve never found Zac Efron to be particularly likable, but his Ryan Lochte-esque Matt Brody (nicknamed the “Vomit Comet” after projectile-puking underwater during his leg of Team USA’s relay) is like a crystal blue-eyed White Walker with the body of a Greek statue, things which make his face all the more punchable for out-of-shape dads everywhere. Also, his character is introduced as a thrill-seeker, yet every time Mitch (The Rock) tries to get involved in any mischief, the Vomit Comet is all “no, stay in your lane and let the cops handle this.” (See: point #10, above.)
4.) The Action
There are quite a few not-very-well-executed action set pieces that are pulled even farther down by some disappointingly below-average FX. Then there’s the painful fight sequence that takes place in a child’s nursery, with muscle-bound alpha dogs hurling stuffed animals at each other and an assault with a diaper genie. Also, for all the seemingly equal opportunity nudity, the Baywatch women unfortunately don’t really get to actually do much of anything action-oriented.
3.) The Lame Cameos
You get David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson (no spoilers here, they’re listed in the opening credits) but other than seeing how their plastic surgery looks, the appearances are worthless. In fact, Hasselhoff’s tiny cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 was far funnier. Plus, alas, no Yasmine Bleeth.
2.) It’s Bromantically Challenged
While the bromance has been brilliantly sold in a wide range of films from I Love You, Man to Dumb & Dumber to The Shawshank Redemption, it just doesn’t work here. Why exactly are we supposed to want these guys to be boys? Mitch repeatedly ribs Brody with nicknames, calling him things like “Bieber” and “High School Musical” which is funny the first seven or eight times thanks to the sheer super-charisma of Dwayne Johnson, but this gimmick, too, is so heavily relied upon that it eventually grows tired.
1.) One Too Many Straight Guys
This is not another male gripe about a “sausage party.” It’s just that this comedic duo is missing one essential element: there’s no ad-libbing motormouth comedian like Chris Tucker or Will Ferrell, just two decently funny guys playing it straight. Johnson and Efron have good enough chemistry but the dynamic is lacking that unexpected wackiness that only a Kevin Hart type can infuse. 48 Hours is a classic buddy film, and so is Lethal Weapon, but would moviegoers flock to a flick that paired Nick Nolte’s Jack Cates with Danny Glover’s Murtagh? The difference between the two leads should span more than just age or even race. There needs to be a significant personality conflict.
I’ll concede that TV-to-movie remakes have had some success, with the likes of Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, and 21 Jump Street, but much more often, you get Starsky & Hutch or Wild Wild West. It’s simply a continuation of the ongoing trend of shortcut Hollywood un-creativity, which also reversely applies in this new golden age of television with movie-to-TV adaptations like Westworld, Fargo, and nearly the entire FOX lineup. In this era of postmodernism, we the audience must demand more innovation and imagination from filmmakers rather than merely a reliance on the novelty of nostalgia to entertain us.
Star rating: 2 out of 5