While Jeff Gordon’s ‘Baywatch’ tries to be a more ridiculous film adaptation of the popular TV guilty pleasure of the same name – which starred David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson (who each make brief- respective -cameos) – it barely feels like a comedy. One rule about turning a popular TV drama into a feature-length comedy reboot is to not take the material too seriously (Given that the show is famous for its use of slow-motion with Pamela Anderson jiggling her way through the beach with her bosoms, why would anyone?) and just have fun; It is the same rule which made the ‘Jump Street’ movies and ‘Starsky & Hutch’ work while leaving not only references to their respective source material, but saving the special surprise – which is the original actor cameo – for us to enjoy. ‘Baywatch’ does have the ingredients necessary for a good film adaptation of a successful TV show, but it feels like there is not much to work with, and we feel spoiled; Also, there is too much of a tonal inconsistency floating above the surface of ‘Baywatch’.
If not for a lack of trying, ‘Baywatch’ would be a failed attempt at comedy. I did chuckle some throughout and found the humor to be funny at times. With the ridiculous amount of Dwayne Johnson’s portrayal of Mitch Buchannon spouting fast-paced orders at his crew of lifeguards, including action movie one-liners inspired by the book of Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes, and showing off his buff stature; all in good fun, which Johnson is shown to clearly have when it comes to making comedies. Joining him is Zac “Typecast-As-Bad-Boy-Hottie” Efron playing a new addition to the ‘Baywatch’ team. Here, he plays two-time gold medal winning olympian Matt Brody, who ruined his reputation by puking in a pool during a swim tournament. He rides his motorcycle to the title beach hoping to redeem himself, yet wants nothing to do, except just relax with alcohol and become a lazy bum.
Buchannon sees potential in Brody, yet is unsure about his reckless behavior and bad attitude. While Brody is really unsure about the beach’s ridiculous rules and regulations, acting like the logical audience member who decided to jump in the movie and explain its fallacies. They team up rather quickly when Priyanka Chopra’s villainous, yet sexy, Victoria Leeds shows up with her cronies to bring drugs and murder on the beach. Joining the crew are Alexandra Daddario’s crystal-blue-eyed Summer Quinn, who bickers with Brody in a way made for your typical budding romance, Kelly Rohrbach, putting on the red swimsuit and ability to run in slo-mo as the famous blonde babe that made Pamela Anderson a poster on every hormonal teenage boy’s wall, CJ Parker, Jon Bass’ Ronnie Greenbaum, who has an infatuation with Parker to the point of socially awkward comic relief (including an overdrawn joke about hiding an erection which goes wrong really fast), and Ilfenish Hadera’s Stephanie Holden, who – along with CJ Parker – is one of the head lifeguards who understands the rules of the beach and knows the right thing to do when leading Brody down the right path.
The marketing to ‘Baywatch’ showed skepticism, as much as promise. It looked funny, and seemed to have that ’21 Jump Street’ style of meta-humor, which gave me the feeling of an underappreciated film. Sadly, the critics were right. I blame the fact that some of the funniest jokes in the trailers and TV spots were left on the cutting room floor during post-production, due to the creative team not wanting to feel like a copy of ’21 Jump Street’. Maybe if the writing team actually took notes from that film and focus more on feeling like a pure comedy, then ‘Baywatch’ would be a treasure of gold at the bottom of the ocean. What should have been a fun slo-mo run at the beach turned out to be a drag.