Movie review: Baywatch can’t save itself from a lack of focus

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The movie, such as their is one, intends to be an exaggerated version of the original TV series’ more preposterous plots, involving lifeguards taking down a massive crime ring because it happens to be located near their beach. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures. The movie, such as their is one, intends to be an exaggerated version of the original TV series’ more preposterous plots, involving lifeguards taking down a massive crime ring because it happens to be located near their beach. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

The big-screen Baywatch isn’t the worst movie ever made—just the most pointless. There are occasional laughs but it can’t be called funny. The performers are charming and committed, but it’s not exactly well acted. Everyone was hired for a job: They did it, took lunch, got paid and went home satisfied with a solid day’s work and with the knowledge that none of it actually mattered. Nobody needed this movie, least of all the team of talented and attractive people tasked with making it happen, but here we are anyway.

Baywatch

R, 119 minutes
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX,
Violet Crown Cinema

Is it worth your time? Do you like movies that are not sure whether to be self-aware or sincere, raunchy or straight-laced, a genuine tribute to the source material or too-cool-for-school parody? Do you like being able to predict the punchline to every single joke in advance? Do you want to see The Rock charm his way through material that is (yet again) so clearly beneath his talent? If the answer is yes, cool, go see Baywatch, no skin off our back.

The movie, such as there is one, intends to be an exaggerated version of the original TV series’ more preposterous plots, involving lifeguards taking down a massive crime ring because it happens to be located near their beach. The cast—including Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach—play the leads, who improbably have the same names as the characters in the show yet exist in a universe where David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson also are named Mitch Buchannon and C.J. “Casey Jean” Parker. Mitch is forced to handle his daily Baywatch duties while babysitting newcomer Matt Brody (Efron), a cocky, disgraced Olympic champion who the higher-ups feel would be good for the Baywatch program’s visibility. Meanwhile, drugs have been appearing more frequently on the beach, and always seem to lead back to local club owner Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra). The team consistently oversteps its jurisdiction—they’re a group of lifeguards, not police—and uncover a complicated criminal operation while butting heads with the cop (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who resents their presence.

The biggest problem with this Baywatch update—beyond not being a good idea to begin with—is that we don’t know who it’s for. It seems to be partially inspired by 21 Jump Street and its sequel, which knew that some fans of the original series might be on board, but it was a surprisingly sharp satire that charted its comedic course. Baywatch does seem to want fans of the show to approve, with self-referential gags that won’t make sense to anyone else, but also acts like actually caring about the fans is beneath it. There’s a campy quality to the show, which is why it still exists in the cultural canon long past its expected shelf life. This movie update, however, has no appeal to anyone.

There are a few chase sequences that would feel at home in a dedicated action flick, but they pop up out of nowhere and disappear even more quickly. Some lines will make you chuckle then forget why. Semi- newcomer Jon Bass will charm you, but he’s just the nerdy kid who gets sexually humiliated then arbitrarily rewarded. Baywatch shouldn’t be the movie that tries to do it all at the same time. Pick a thing and stick with it. It’s what the Hoff—not to mention the audience—deserves.


Playing this week

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213

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Violet Crown Cinema

200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000

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