“BAYWATCH” SILLY, DUMB AND RAUNCHY; “DYING UP HERE” ON TV
A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley
BAYWATCH (Rated R) Pop culture legends Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff achieved their level of fame from a popular television series that conjured up fun-loving images of sun, surf and statuesque lifeguards running in slow-motion in form-fitting red swimsuits. Of course, that show “Baywatch,” which thrived for many years in syndication, featured a slew of attractive men and women patrolling the beaches of Los Angeles County, with cast changes over the years that even included former Playboy playmates.
Given that a number of TV series have been turned into feature length movies over the years, with “21 Jump Street” and “Charlie’s Angels” as more notable recent examples, it was only a matter of time before the jigglefest of “Baywatch” would be added to the mix. The selling point for this adaptation is the towering presence of Dwayne Johnson, aka “The Rock,” inhabiting the David Hasselhoff starring role of sturdy Lieutenant Mitch Buchannon, a man with the megawatt smile and enough charisma to cast a wide net on the beach.
The odd thing about “Baywatch” the movie, which has plenty of raunchy humor, is that it doesn’t quite know what type of entertainment to be. Sure, it’s a comedy, but also a drama. It’s a story of intrigue and detective work, with a heavy dose of high-octane action.
Persuasively charming, Johnson could sell ice to the Eskimos, and here he sells the idea of Mitch Buchannon as a sort of demi-god (one beachgoer has sculpted his likeness in the sand) who rules his lifeguard crew with benevolent efficiency. But then, along comes Zac Efron as disgraced gold medal-winning Olympic swimmer Matt Brody, who arrogantly believes he’s entitled to become one of the new lifeguards for the summer season at Florida’s Emerald Bay. Probably the most fun of this comedy-drama-action picture is watching Mitch’s verbal assault on pretty boy Matt with the put-downs of calling him “Malibu Ken,” “High School Musical,” and “One Direction,” among a steady stream of other insults.
“Baywatch,” of course, would not be what it is without a bevy of drop-dead gorgeous lifeguards that look more like Victoria Secret models. In fact, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kelly Rohrbach has the Pamela Anderson role of C.J. Parker. Besides the usual saving of ocean swimmers, Mitch and his crew get mixed up in detective work involving drug-running and murder, when the nefarious activities of club owner Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) result in the lifeguards going undercover.
None of this sits well with the local police and a city administrator, but the death of a corrupt councilman screams for the lifeguards’ involvement when a boat fire goes horribly wrong.It’s worth noting that Chopra, the star of the “Quantico” TV series, makes for a good villain, and Alexandra Daddario stands out as smart new recruit and Ilfenesh Hadera makes a capable second-in-command. The original TV series may have been suitable for family viewing, but the same cannot be said for “Baywatch” the movie, which overall is silly and dumb for the most part and yet is far too raunchy in its humor and abundant string of F-bombs.