From the bombastic opening sequence to the b-roll clip embedded in the credits, Baywatch is less about the soap opera-style romances and more about kicking the comedic irony up several notches. The story’s pretty straightforward: Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) is the wisecracking, life-saving, fearless leader of a tight knit group of life guards who pride themselves on being the best, and being there for one another. Someone’s dealing drugs on their beach and they don’t intend to turn a blind-eye. Enter self-centered, fallen Olympic superstar Matt Brody. He’s so far from a team player, he doesn’t even think he needs to pass the tests be join the Baywatch crew.
Now, I don’t know how much you’re expecting with a premise like that but if you’re looking for a in-depth characters examination or a suspense-riddled mystery just waiting to bring you to enlightenment, 1) you forgot it’s summer movie time, 2) you clearly never watched a trailer for this movie, and 3) you forgot this movie is inspired by a 90s televisions show. This movie knows exactly what it is and makes sure you do too. It pokes fun at the show’s signature moments and openly acknowledges that its playing into 90s cliches. It’s fully committed to its own ridiculousness. Think Rocky and Bullwinkle-style stuns and gags right down to the villain in the enticing form of Priyanka Chopra as Victory Leeds.
This movie doesn’t work without Dwayne Johnson. Period full stop. He’s charismatic, engaging, and likable. His ability to deliver otherwise insubstantial dialogue with tongue-in-cheek flair saves more than one moment from falling flat. The rest of the cast follows Johnson’s lead and embraces the absurdness wholeheartedly; this ensemble has great chemistry. No one took themselves too seriously and the end product is amusing for it. There are a few too many dick jokes but given that the film’s inspiration is show where everyone’s running around in swim suits, it was inevitable that side-eye and such cheeky moments were going to be a thing. Not every gag hits the mark and more than once they told that one extra joke that was just unnecessary but all-in-all, Baywatch kept in its lane and plays to its audience with more than adequate flair.
Baywatch drags you along laughing and shaking your head in equal parts. It’s an over top snark-fest with plenty of well-timed comedy. Come expecting a summer popcorn movie and you’ll leave will leave more than a few one-liners stuck in your head and no desire to have a serious conversation or thought for at least a few hours.
Note: This is a rated R movie. It’s not for your kids or your neighbors’ kids. The humor is deliberately low-brow and at turns flat out crude. The soundtrack, while hilarious, is not censored. If you take your kids to this movie and are the upset because you have to have “conversations” you’re not ready to have, this will be your own fault. Baywatch makes no bones about being a out-and-out raunch-com ignore that at your own peril.
Overall Rating: 2.75 out of 5
Baywatch follows devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchannon as he butts heads with a brash new recruit. Together, they uncover a local criminal plot that threatens the future of the Bay.
Rating: R (for language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Comedy
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hadera
Directed By: Seth Gordon
Written By: Robert Ben Garant, Justin Malen, Damian Shannon, Barry Schwartz, Mark Swift
In Theaters: May 25, 2017 Wide
Runtime: 116 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures