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‘Baywatch’ review: not waving just drowning

May 30, 2017

Film + EntertainmentReview | by Cormac O'Brien

If you’re of an age to remember the halycon days of the original Baywatch well, this is just what you might expect from a late 2010’s reboot. It’s a not-quite-wry, revelling in of all of the silliness that the original series took at face value from slow motion running sequences to barely feasible plotlines.

And in drinking deeply from what are already a risible set of equations, this particularly modern-day comedic reversion is at least gifted with the saving grace of some self-awareness about its dully sexist and stupid premise. In its favour, this Baywatch stars US presidential hopeful Dwayne Johnson, who in stepping into the The Hoff’s flip flops as Mitch Buchannon, provides a muscularly likable lead.

All that’s sandy as far as the eye can see is Mitch’s domain, and as head lifeguard and all-around good guy, he takes his beach safety job seriously. Aside from occasionally jostling with local beat cop Sgt Ellerbee (Yaha Abdul-Mateen II) over jurisdiction, because in this world lifeguards take down diamond smuggling surfers and expose drug rings, his life’s an American dream clad in red beachwear, if not exactly the stars and stripes. But with lifeguard try-outs around the corner, a new set of recruits set for the beach fill Buchannon’s hands with the likes of snarky Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario), paunchy but heartfelt Ronnie Greenbaum (John Bass) and obstinate bad boy Matt Brody (Zac Effron) who join seasoned sea veterans Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera) and Kelly Rohrback in Pamela Anderson’s previous role as CJ.

Momentarily it all works with fair action sequences and a steady stream of comic zings directed at Effron who’s berated as Bieber, One Direction and Highschool Musical. And largely, as a buddy comedy with an ensemble cast, The Rock’s straight man vs. Zac Effron’s antagonist newcomer brings some laughs. The two-time Olympic medal winner Brody’s road to recover his lost reputation after a spectacular in-competition faux pas at the Olympic relay race leave him with the appellation Matt ‘The Vomit Comet’ Brody. But still grappling with his party boy lifestyle, Effron’s attempts to work off his crimes to society with lifeguard community service don’t always work. But soon Baywatch is a man out to sea, not waving just drowning… this time in dick jokes and gross-out humour. Priyanka Chopra’s easy to predict one-note villainess doesn’t help but can hardly be blamed for the slapdash crescendo of silliness that Baywatch brings.

Unlike 21 Jump Street, this Hollywood pilfering of past options falls flat and its increasingly laboured grasps at comedy grow very wearying.

Baywatch aims for this year’s summer blockbuster, but I want to see the receipts.

Words by Cormac O’Brien