Film review: Baywatch – Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron play crime-fighting lifeguards in shambolic frat boy comedy
It seems this big-screen reboot has had a little too much sun
In its 1990s heyday, Baywatch commanded a weekly audience of more than a billion viewers worldwide, earning itself the mantle of “the most-watched show on television”. Paramount’s movie reboot, directed by Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses), seems unlikely to repeat that success, as Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron square off in a shambolic frat boy comedy punctuated by subpar beachfront action.
Johnson steps into David Hasselhoff’s iconic role as Mitch Buchanan, no-nonsense leader of LA County’s lifeguards. But Mitch’s tight ship runs aground when he is forced to recruit disgraced Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Efron), whose lack of team spirit cost the USA gold in Rio. Mitch is determined to straighten out the narcissist, while the team investigates the nefarious dealings of a local businesswoman (Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra).
On TV, Baywatch struck a winning balance of sun, surf and skin, as its scantily clad heroes juggled personal dramas with lifesaving duties. This movie seems more interested in emulating the recent successes of its leads, but its efforts to reach the high-octane thrills of Fast & Furious , while plundering the comedic depths of Dirty Grandpa , result in a hot mess of gratuitous ab shots and ill-conceived dick jokes.
A few gags do work, like Mitch’s never-ending string of pretty boy put-downs for Brody, or how the lifeguards persistently overstep their boundaries, taking law enforcement into their own hands without any legal justification. Inevitably, there are cameos from Baywatch alumni Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson, but their appearances are spoilt ahead of time by having their names appear in the opening credits.
Still, Baywatch was only ever about the eye candy – and the film delivers in that department. Johnson and Efron’s unfeasibly ripped torsos are on display throughout, while co-stars Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach seem game to have their ample curves be the frequent focus of both camera and conversation.
But beyond the sun burn and baby oil, the film’s similarities with its source material can barely squeeze into its little red trunks.
Baywatch opens on June 1, with preview screenings starting May 25
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