Thursday, May 25, 2017
I never watched a single episode of the "Baywatch" TV show, or wanted to. They couldn't just have lifeguards resuscitating poor swimmers every week, so they brought in drug dealers, inter-squad passion/spats, earthquakes and even a serial killer to spice things up.
It sounded like a weird amalgam of a crime procedural and fleshfest, complete with the slo-mo running "jiggle cam" that became its signature.
Basically, it was a stripper cop show.
"Baywatch" at least seemed aware of its own silliness, and to the extent possible, embraced it. So the logical thing to do if you were going to make a movie out of it is to spoof the TV version, in the way that "21 Jump Street," “The A Team” and the more recent “CHIPS” did.
(Though perhaps these are not the… best examples.)
Director Seth Gordon, a TV and film comedy veteran (“Identity Thief,” “Horrible Bosses”), and screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift start off reasonably well, gathering together a gaggle of eye-pleasing hardbodies and concocting a bunch of goofy, raunchy scenarios to put them through.
But the film loses steam pretty early, and then hangs around way too long -- nearly two hours. If any movie needed to rock an 82-minute run time, it’s this.
It’s very aware of what it’s trying to do, at least for a while. The actors mock the TV show while paying homage to it. For instance, one of the women questions why it is their familiar fire red one-piece bathing suits ride so far up their rear ends. It makes us faster in the water, or something, the other responds… and we all know it’s the “or something.”
Interestingly, a whole lot more male flesh is on display than female which, other than some cleavage and the aforementioned butt-age, is pretty much kept under wraps. That is largely provided by Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, two famously buff actors who butter their bread with getting their kits off.
Johnson is built like the former WWE and NFL prospect he was, massive in the Schwarzeneggerian mold. He basically looks like an 18-wheeler encased in flesh. Efron, a former teen idol, seems intent on completely ridding his body of all fat to the point he resembles those “visible man” cut-out models you saw in biology class, where every muscle strand and the guts are naked to the eye.
Apparently, this is considered attractive nowadays. I guess the next step is for people to start making their internal organs visible. Soon there’ll be a market for cosmetic surgery of the liver.
There is one schlubby guy, a new recruit named Ronnie (Jon Bass), because it’s supposed to be funny to have the rippled crew running on the beach together, and here’s this big belly sloshing around in slo-mo. But the movie awards him… other attributes as compensation.
Other newbies to the Baywatch team are Alexandra Daddario as Summer, a tough and smart girl, and Efron as Matt Brody, a former Olympic champion more famous for his out-of-the-pool tomfoolery than his gold medals. Think Ryan Lochte with gastrointestinal issues. He’s cocky as all get-out and must be put in his place, starting with Summer responding to his brodude overtures.
Johnson is Lieutenant Mitch Buchannon, a legend on the beach with hundreds of confirmed saves. One of the running jokes is that Mitch acts like a military special-ops badass -- the exact origin of his rank is nebulous -- and people have to keep reminding him he’s just a lifeguard.
Ilfenesh Hadera plays Stephanie, Mitch’s seasoned and capable #2. Rob Huebel is the jerk suit ostensibly in command. Kelly Rohrbach rounds out the team as CJ, whom Ronnie is smitten with, and she might just have a little smit running the other direction, too.
There’s a plot, but that’s not really the point. Something about a powerful businesswoman buying up beach properties, muscling politicos and offing anyone who gets in the way.
“Baywatch” actually starts out pretty funny and fresh, but they only really had about two solid “SNL” skits worth of material to go on. The rest is unfunny filler. But I guess they spent so much effort trimming the fat from the beach bods, they couldn’t bother to do the same with the script.