Baywatch is the 2017 action-comedy film adaptation of the popular television series of the same name. The films stars Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass, Ilfenesh Hadera, and Priyanka Chopra, was written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift and directed by Seth Gordon. Johnson plays Mitch, a celebrated and beloved lifeguard in charge of an elite team known as Baywatch, who takes on disgraced Olympic swimmer Matt Brody – played by Efron – as part of his community service. When drugs wash up on the beach, Mitch leads his team in an investigation to uncover the nefarious goings on surrounding the Huntley Club and it’s owner Victoria Leeds – played by Chopra.
This film is a joke and very, very stupid and not at all in a good way or how the filmmakers intended it to be. It’s also a huge missed opportunity. It had so much potential to be a very good, silly, goofy, self-aware comedy and all of it was wasted. It constantly tries to establish that kind of tone, with Efron’s character Brody pointing out every ridiculous thing Mitch and his team does. It’s supposed to be meta-commentary that puts everything the team does in a humorous light, but the film treats itself so seriously that none of it lands. It’s not at all funny.
The appearance of the title card itself tries to establish that kind of The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water tone of campy, zany fun; it pops up out of the water behind Johnson as he cradles someone he just rescued and dolphins leap out of the water. It was a brilliant way to set up what to expect from the film, but it was a false flag. The trailers even hinted at it. It’s as if the filmmakers were trying to do both…or something. Whatever it was, it failed. Horribly.
What the filmmakers did succeeded in doing was making suspension of disbelief completely impossible. Nothing that these people did was believable. It made absolutely no sense that they felt so strongly that they needed to involve themselves in criminal investigations or took themselves so seriously as life guards. To do things that they are more than once told is not their job. To grossly overstep the boundaries of what is appropriate or legal for them to do as civilians. The film does such a bad job at endearing you to them that they’re frustrating to watch and you don’t root for them to take things into their own hands or go so far. They just come off as a bunch of self important twats. Especially Mitch.
This film managed to do something that no one would ever have thought possible; it made Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson an insufferable narcissist. Dwayne Johnson. The most likeable man in Hollywood. Who did garbage film after garbage film and was always the best thing about them. Mitch felt like a police academy or military drop out who was desperately clinging to the fantasy of fulfilling such a role. So much so that he turned himself and his team of lifeguards into some pseudo special ops unit.
His insistence on never calling Brody by his name and instead referring to him by the names of boy bands and pretty-boy pop stars, even calling him High School Musical at one point, was never funny. Even though it was supposed to be. He has a very hypocritical moment in the film as well; he stressed the importance and seriousness of being a lifeguard and how much of a life and death situation the job can be…to then leave the beach unattended for the entire day because he was too busy doing the police’s job. With all of the charm and charisma in the world, Johnson could not save this film. His character is literally the worst.
The only likeable characters were Ronnie (the out of shape new recruit who has a crush on CJ) and Brody. Of everyone who is supposed to be funny, Ronnie is the only one who actually is. His nervous, goof ball persona and crush on CJ make him endearing. Although Brody starts off just as forgettable as much of the cast is, he eventually grows on you and has his moments in the film that make you like him as a character. They’re not laugh out loud funny moments, but they warrant at least a slight upturn at the corner of the lips.
Daddario, Rohrbach and Hadera are eye candy. That’s it. They serve their purpose. Although it’s worthy of note that Hadera is Mitch’s second in command and the only woman on the team who does not have a romantic interest. On the topic of the female presence in this film, every time someone says something that could even remotely be interpreted as sexist – like Mitch saying Brody has soft hands like a woman and their boss referring to them as “you guys” when Daddario is present – they apologise. It’s annoying and a little patronising.
Chopra’s Victoria Leeds is a cartoon villain. If she had moustache, she would have twirled it several times. Like pretty much everyone in the cast except the aforementioned exceptions, she has no character or personality. Her villainous nature is in no way subtle. Not that it has to be, it’s just that the overtness with which she displayed it was poorly done.
For a film that’s supposed to be a comedy it’s not actually that funny. At all. There are three laugh out loud hilarious moments in the film and that is it. None of the other jokes particularly elicit any kind of reaction and just fall flat. It’s trying to be a 21 Jump Street type thing but it never gets there. It’s trying too hard to be funny and to fit into the genre it so clearly wants to be in.
No one would expect this film to be good. It’s obviously meant to be a guilty pleasure. It’s not trying to be good, but it’s a lot worst than you would think. The trailers promised a dumb, fun, comedy and the film delivers on only one of those things and it’s neither the fun nor the comedy. Baywatch is simply atrocious.