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New Release Review - BAYWATCH

baywatch movie review
Big screen spoof of the '90s TV phenomenon.







Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Seth Gordon

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Priyanka Chopra, Ilfenesh Hadera, Jon Bass

baywatch movie poster


Back in the '90s, before the internet beamed its world of smut into our homes, hormonal teenage boys had to make do with the Saturday teatime tradition of Baywatch to get their fill of female flesh. In anticipation of the obligatory slo-mo sequence of Pamela Anderson's cleavage bouncing in her red swimsuit like two bald midgets running a sack race, a lot of VCR pause buttons were worn out. But also fast forward buttons, as in between such mammary moments the show was the very definition of tedium. The new generation of sweaty palmed tykes who visit the cinema to check out this big screen cash-in will be wishing they could access a fast-forward button too, as Baywatch the movie is so unremittingly awful it may well turn its young male audience off boobs for life.

baywatch movie

As unfathomable as it may seem, millions of viewers across the globe enjoyed the original show on an unironic level (reflected heavily in the amount of Chinese financiers' logos that precede the film), but in 2017 there's no feasible way to play this concept with a straight face, and so Baywatch the movie is another pisstake in the 21 Jump Street mould. It's such a misfire however that it makes this year's other unwatchable big screen adaptation, CHiPs, look like the Grand-Mommy of this sub-genre, the under-rated and ahead of its time The Brady Bunch Movie.

Here, Mitch Buchanan, the superhero lifeguard originally played by human meme David Hasselhoff (who of course turns up for an obligatory cameo here, along with former co-star Anderson, who has had so much work done at this point that she literally walks in slow motion now), is essayed by Dwayne Johnson in a demeaning piece of miscasting. Johnson's all-American sincerity, which usually brightens up every movie he appears in, is at odds with this film's snark, and hearing expletives come from his mouth is akin to stumbling across Jimmy Stewart's sex tape. Johnson is the guy you'd ask to pick up your kids from school when you get a flat tyre, or to take your wife to dinner when you're forced to work late. He has a rare old world innocence that seems out of steps with these cynical times. That's why we love him, why he unites so many disparate viewers, and his role here feels like we're being robbed of something precious.

baywatch movie

"Yeah, yeah, enough about Johnson, what about the boobs?" you might ask. Well for a movie whose main selling point is something the male anatomy can't offer, Baywatch sure does hide away its women. In an attempt to replicate the chemistry of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street, this movie is all about Johnson and Zac Efron, whose Mitch Brody is a disgraced former Olympic medalist forced to join the red-suited lifeguards as his community service. While the pair indulge in gay panic jokes, the women shuffle around in the background, struggling to be seen behind their leading men's bulging biceps.

The irony of this is that Baywatch tries to sell us a message about male privilege, with Brody being offered multiple opportunities to progress despite constantly screwing up, while the far more qualified female lifeguards are passed over. But this is a crime the film itself is guilty of, as it sidelines its female stars in favour of Johnson and Efron. What's doubly annoying is that in the brief glimpses we see of these women above the neck they threaten to add some life to the film. Bollywood icon Priyanka Chopra is the standout as the film's villain, a ruthless councillor involved in drug smuggling. She's given crumbs to work with, but through sheer star power she kneads them into a full loaf, chewing up the screen every time she enters a scene, and reminding us that there's a whole world of stardom beyond Tinseltown. The big surprise is model turned actress Kelly Rohrbach, who displays a natural comic talent despite being given nothing remotely funny to work with. Her character is a mess, morphing from stereotypical blond bimbo to strong heroine from scene to scene as if the part is an amalgamation of two different script drafts. Alexandra Daddario and Ilfenesh Hadera meanwhile are required merely to stand to the left and right of Johnson, as if they're the world's hottest bodyguards.

baywatch movie

As a comedy, Baywatch is unfeasibly unburdened with laughs. Even the worst Adam Sandler vehicles produce one or two involuntary guffaws, if only a muscle reaction your brain immediately scorns, but Baywatch failed to produce as much as a mild snort from either myself or anyone else who attended my screening. It's also a half-assed thriller, and it fails to integrate any humour into its tedious action sequences; it's like watching two separate movies, neither of which justify their existence. Where's the fast forward button when you need it?

Baywatch is in UK/ROI cinemas May 29th.



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