I have vague memories of the original "Baywatch" show. I certainly remember hearing about it growing up. As a kid growing up in the early and mid 90's, it was hard not hearing about the passing of "Baywatch." The show clearly had its fans, and it certainly had an effect on popular culture. But "Baywatch," was pretty much a dumb show. I guess you didn't need a story when the whole appeal of the show was watching sexy people run in slow motion across the beach, but the story threads were always paper-thin. Yes, the show gave us Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff, but that doesn't mean that the show was particularly good.
Much as "Baywatch" the television show was dumb, "Baywatch" the movie is dumb.
Sadly, "Baywatch" the movie isn't dumb in fun kind of way, which is what we expect in the summer movie season. No, no. "Baywatch" is just a dumb movie. It takes the ticks and tropes of the old television show and turns them up past a reasonable volume to a terrible unfathomable one. Then the story runs so far off the rails that it feels more like another "21 Jump Street" movie, instead of a "Baywatch" movie. Look, I know "21 Jump Street" is pretty much the only good television-to-big-screen franchise that has worked out so far, that doesn't mean someone deserves to copy it.
I am starting to notice something as I watch more TV and watch more and more movies year after year. I am noticing that TV shows work better on TV and movies work better in the movie realm. There suddenly is so much TV-shows-turning into movies and vice versa that the market is becoming over-saturated. Unfortunately, the people behind these endeavors don't bring anything new to the table. They don't do anything with the material that is new or exciting. "Car 54, Where Are You," "The Dukes of Hazard," "The A-Team," "Entourage: The Movie" "The Simpsons Movie." All of these former TV shows that delved into movies produced product that was either treacherous or disappointing. Mostly because these shows end up feeling like longer versions of an episode of the said show, to which I say, what's the point?
"Baywatch" suffers from that. Its essentially trying to be a longer version of an episode of the original TV show, but its also trying to be a "21 Jump Street" movie in disguise. "Baywatch" fails miserably at both of these things. The film spends the first half of the film coasting on the nostalgia created from the original TV show. We meet Mitch (Dwayne Johnson), a committed lifeguard in Florida who is looking for new recruits for his crew. One of them is Brody (Zak Efron), a washed-up Olympic swimmer with a chip on his shoulder. Brody is trying to prove he can be a good lifeguard and Mitch just doesn't see it. Simple and safe material, I thought. But perhaps Efron and Johnson could find the charm and wit in the situation and make something out of it.
Then as the film gets into undercover lifeguards and drugs and the stupid stunts and the unfunny situations and the un-needed, unrealistic action...it got to the point that it didn't even look like "Baywatch." This felt like a silly imposter, a shell of the material the filmmakers were trying to adapt. A faker that wasn't funny or fun or witty or exciting. Those are the big things I want from my brainless summer movies, and "Baywatch" could not provide any of that for me. If they wanted to make a beach detective mystery with a comedic twist, that sounds like a good idea. Especially with The Rock and Zak Efron and Alexandra Daddario and Priyanka Chopra and Hannibal Burgess and a bunch of models, that could have been fun. But it's not "Baywatch" so why call it that? To cash out on something that didn't amount to much more than a cult classic status?
Of course The Rock being The Rock, he certainly brings the charisma train full steam ahead in this movie. I think he did exactly what he was hired to do here. I still don't get what the big fuss is over Zak Efron quite yet, besides a pretty face. I don't know if he's much of a performer, if he's capable of anything more than what we've seen time after time already. It'd be interesting to see Efron branch out more, like he did with "The Paperboy," even though I ultimately didn't care for that movie. There is nothing wrong with the cast overall. I think they did what they were asked to do, its just that what they were asked to do didn't add up to much.
I am wondering just how many "Baywatch" fans are out there. I wonder if there were enough to turn this into a movie, and I wonder what those hardcore fans have to say about this. I wonder if they really liked what they saw here. I am by no means a "Baywatch" expert, so perhaps maybe lifelong fans of this show will end up liking what they see. If so, I hope you guys enjoy. Its just for my tastes, I couldn't connect with this.
FINAL GRADE: D-