2Not even the charming presence of future presidential candidate Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson can quite save Baywatch, a film that aims to be a tongue in cheek reimagining in the vein of 21 Jump Street, but considers as wit scenes that involve ubiquitous raunch comedy star Zac Efron checking the undercarriage of a dead man – whose genitalia is the star of multiple shots – or another character getting their junk stuck in a beach chair.
The film update of the popular 1990s TV show replaces the cheesiness of its predecessor with a nonstop onslaught of adults-only gags and a standard plot thread involving drug dealers that might have felt more at home on Miami Vice.
In the picture, Johnson plays Mitch, the head lifeguard at a popular California beach who takes his job seriously. His staff includes the attractive CJ (Kelly Rohrbach) – whose body the camera takes every opportunity to ogle – as well as Ronnie (Jon Bass), whose physique doesn’t quite match the beach’s other lifeguards and, therefore, gets to be the butt of many of the film’s jokes.
In an effort to draw some publicity to the beach, Zac Efron’s spoiled former Olympian Matt Brody gets hired and immediately draws all eyes to his constantly exposed abs. Previously, Brody had fallen from grace after drinking too much before a relay race, during which he barfed in the pool.
The film includes a rudimentary subplot regarding a local businesswoman named Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) who moonlights as a drug smuggler. One could be tempted to praise Baywatch for its diverse cast, although most of the minority characters are villains working for Leeds’ drug operation – oh right, there’s also that bungling cop.
There are, admittedly, a few laughs to be had during the course of Baywatch and Johnson can be fun to watch. It’s obvious he’s committed to the picture, without taking it too seriously. And Efron proves again – after the moderately amusing Neighbors 2 and execrable Dirty Grandpa – that he’s game for some outlandish scenarios – including that one where he has to dig around a dead man’s scrotum.
So, no, Baywatch isn’t as bad as you might think. It pokes fun at itself and even brings in David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson for cameos. The film knows, to an extent, that it is ridiculous – which is not to say that it’s good either. It makes jokes at the expense of the cliches involved in such a storyline, but peddles them all the same.