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Baywatch

May 25, 2017

Baywatch (**) R

The long promised­—or threatened, depending on your point of view—big screen adaptation of the TV show Baywatch has finally arrived with decidedly mixed results. But then again, I can’t help but believe that expectations for a Baywatch feature film can’t be high considering the low bar that the original TV series set in its heyday. In that respect the film definitely hits its intended target by being too bland to either like or dislike.

In fact, some of the show’s more ridiculous plot points—smuggling diamonds by inserting them into surfboards, for one example—are skewered in one of the best scenes in the film, wherein the characters keep spitting out one ridiculous scenario after another that turned up on the original show during its run. This is the kind of thing that I would liked to have seen more of but, unfortunately, the script, which is attributed to four story contributors and two actual screenwriters, doesn’t offer much in the way of subversive humor that could have made this film a home run. Instead, it offers up oodles of tired jokes involving male anatomy and the like. I couldn’t help but imagine what would have happened if someone such as the Zucker brothers (Airplane, Naked Gun) had gotten their hands  on this premise some twenty years ago.

This is the kind of film that could have really succeeded at one point in time but now seems strangely anachronistic. In fact, it makes you wonder just who the target audience is for this film, since twentysomethings will likely be scratching their heads at the film’s cameo appearances by the TV series’ stars, Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff. 

Zac Effron & The Rock in Baywatch

The cast certainly can’t be faulted. They are all likable enough and they do the best with the opportunities the material affords them. Unfortunately the presence of stars such as Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario can only take things so far. A film needs more than star charisma and Baywatch doesn’t have a lot offer outside of that.

The threadbare plot, such as it is, involves a bunch of new job recruits learning the predictable ropes of being a lifeguard courtesy of the career veteran, Mitch (Johnson).  The lifeguard wannabes include a hunky former Olympic star (Effron) and a computer nerd (Jon Bass) who are being molded into shape by Mitch. When several prominent town figures turn up dead at exactly the same time that packets of drugs begin washing up on the beach, Mitch and the gang become amateur sleuths with lackluster results. At this point the anatomical jokes slow down in favor of a crime subplot that would have felt old hat twenty years ago.

Baywatch is sort of enjoyable—at least tolerable in a goofy sort of way—for its first hour. Then the film wears out its welcome by dragging on for another hour leading to overkill. When are filmmakers going to finally learn that less is more when it comes to film comedy? It’s a question that begs to be answered and one of the reasons why Baywatch fails to deliver on what could have been comedic gold. The opportunities are there but it misses more than it hits.

Baywatch is playing all over the area, and at the AMC in Hickory.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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