BAYWATCH is basically exactly the movie you expect it to be. An adaptation of the television series of the same name, this Seth Gordon film rounds the bases in R-rated fashion. It’s just shy of working as a guilty pleasure, in part because it’s not remotely “good” and in part because it’s just so damn polished and noisy.
The screenplay is laced with all the juvenile humour and awkward sentimentality this kind of formula calls for, but the comedy isn’t sharp and many of the jokes fall flat. It’s too bad, as the cast is charismatic and entertaining.
Dwayne Johnson stars as Mitch, the ambitious head of a team of lifeguards. He’s not the sort to be content with letting the police handle criminal activity that occurs on his beach, so this leads to a strained relationship with law enforcement. When Matt Brody (Zac Efron) arrives and a businesswoman (Priyanka Chopra) complicates things, Mitch is pressed to act once more.
Johnson is one of those likable leads and he does his best to make BAYWATCH float. It’s no secret he’s having a ball and that makes some of the more awkward moments slip by without sticking. His chemistry with Efron is effective, especially when the Rock unplugs a series of sobriquets that work like some kind of odd magic. “High School Musical” might be the best one.
True to form, BAYWATCH has plenty of eye candy. Johnson and Efron do most of the heavy lifting in their respective roles, although Efron’s musculature is almost alarming at times. Kelly Rohrbach is on tap as CJ, while Alexandra Daddario is Summer. Both are equally ebullient, although Summer is a bit more pertinent to the “plot” in that she gets to react to stuff more often.
CJ is jammed into a teenage dream kind of romantic setup, in which the movie’s requisite “nerd” (Jon Bass) has a mega-crush on her and gets stuck in a few awkward positions. Bass’ character has one of the most amusing moments in the picture when he performs a dance for Chopra’s character. She puts it over like a million dollars.
As mentioned, BAYWATCH is not a good movie. But it doesn’t aspire to be. It’s an updated, hyped-up version of the television series. The music is obnoxious, the continuity errors are legion, the script is blasé and futile, the plot is overclocked and overstuffed, the action is explosive and laughable.
And yet, it’s not awful. Some movies run the same gamut and don’t feature a single likable character, but BAYWATCH packs commendable charisma. Johnson, Efron, Daddario, Rohrbach, Bass, and the badass Ilfenesh Hadera are amiable and enjoyable. BAYWATCH won’t ever find itself in the upper echelon of comedy cinema, but this is far from the worst endeavour you could entertain on a lazy afternoon.