‘Baywatch’ Review: A Mixture Of Sun, Fun, And Laughs

FIRST IMPRESSION

While my recommendation of 'Baywatch' certainly places me in the minority, anyone who takes a chance on this release will not be disappointed.
Acting
Writing
Production Design
Direction
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Baywatch does enough to overcome its flaws to deliver an action-rich laugh filled experience.

Summary

The film starts off on the beach during tryouts for the new Baywatch recruits. The leader of the squad, Mitch (Dwayne Johnson) is hell bent on putting this crew through the ringer. However, one of the recruits appears to be getting special treatment from Mitch’s boss. Matt Brody (Zac Efron) is a two-time Olympic gold medalist whose mere presence could mean great publicity for a program the county commission believe is antiquated. Mitch eventually gets the commission to agree to Brody having to go through the same tryouts as everyone else (one that involves some highly unorthodox events). Predictably, Brody makes it as well as two other lifeguards recruits played by Alexandra Daddario and Jon Bass. The narrative quickly pivots from tryouts to finding out why drugs keep washing up on the beach. It appears that the deeper they dig into the drug issue, the more dead bodies begin to appear. Mitch suspects that real estate mogul Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) is behind all of this. Matt thinks that this whole mess is best settled by the police.

Baywatch

What Worked

Damian Shannon and Mark Swift developed a narrative with a good sense of tone. If anyone (including critics) expected this picture to be anything other than a silly adaptation of a cheesy show from the 90’s, they obviously haven’t seen an episode of Baywatch.

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Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson are oozing with chemistry on screen. Both actors appear to understand that their respective characters are extremely similar to their TV counterparts, with each interpretation being so over the top it’s hilarious.

When the narrative ventures into “R” rated territory, Baywatch is at its most hilarious. The scene in the morgue may be the funniest sequence in the film.

Elements in the production design added to the overall comedic value of Baywatch. Through a sequence of events, Matt ends having to sleep over at Mitch’s house on a cot right next to the fish tank. Mitch warns him that he’s always watching and as you are leaving we get a shot of a miniature fish tank version of Mitch watching Matt with binoculars.

What Didn’t Work

Why didn’t Seth Gordon go all in on making Baywatch the “R” Rated comedy we all anticipated seeing? The reason why Ted and Deadpool work so well is there is no ambiguity in the type of film it wanted to be. Watching the end credits, you just got the feeling that some of the more funnier moments of the film didn’t even make the final cut.

While it seemed the movie had plenty for Efron and Johnson’s characters to do, the rest of the supporting cast was severely ignored. Part of the storyline involves the hiring of three new lifeguards, two of which clearly belong on the squad and one named Ronnie (Jon Bass). It’s not hard to see that they were shooting for the punchline when writing in Ronnie making it on the squad. He’s goofy, pudgy, and manages to get his privates stuck in a beach chair. After we go through the first quarter of the film and Ronnie makes it as a trainee, he disappears into the background of the film. Why? Don’t ignore the guy who is generating as many laughs as Dwayne Johnson.

Priyanka Chopra should not have been cast as the main villain for the film. She looks amazing in the film but does nothing on screen that convinced me even 1% that she was the right pick.

Cameos! Why the need for Cameos?

Overall

Baywatch is the type of release that some critics will mercilessly bash because everyone is doing it. What baffles me is that these are the same people who, as I sat in the theater with them, were laughing hysterically at the film. How can you bash something that apparently you found entertaining enough to laugh? Are you really going to tell me something is the worst film of the summer when you clearly seemed to be enjoying yourself?

What did I think of Baywatch? While the film has its share of issues, I enjoyed watching it. Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson were a hell of a lot of fun on screen. When the film went into that “R” rated realm, it was hysterical. This film is a great date night film that will require little thought from the audience but will provide maximum enjoyment for all in the theater.

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.

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