Converting a successful 90’s TV series that already lacked substance into a big hit movie is definitely a challenge that you would think Hollywood would gladly pass over… But looking at the successful attempts made with recent retro TV shows’ adaptations like The A-Team, wait… that wasn’t that great (don’t even get me started on the sequel!), Starsky & Hutch, hum…, Chips?… alright, I’m giving up!… 21 Jump Street! That’s it!
Ok, so based on a one-time success in the midst of a hundred failures, big time movie producers thought that bringing back Baywatch, a series that focused more on its actors’ figures and talent for running in slow-mo than on any remotely respectable plot lines (seriously, do you remember anything else that happened on the show?), was a terrific idea!
But certainly, by hiring people’s lovable champ, Dwayne Johnson, to reprise David Hasselhoff’s role of mentor Mitch Buchannon and sexy dude, Zac Efron, to play a muscular former Olympic swimmer that’ll constantly get on his nerves, their effort to bring a new spin to the whole franchise looked pretty promising!
So, was that enough, or is Baywatch (and the many similar raunchy comedies that will without doubts follow) doomed to stay a tasteless, body-focused, lazy production? Here’s the verdict…
A succession of dream bods and bad jokes
Let’s be clear. No one expected less from a Baywatch movie than a big basket of perfect abs, boobs and butts wrapped in red, ultra-sexy swimsuits with zippers that always seem to be broken. (Be honest, you would be disappointed if we told you it wasn’t there.) And that’s one thing the movie effectively delivers!
But “despite the charm of Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, Baywatch is an overlong comedy with more notable action than humor.” “There are the requisite penis and boob jokes, a great deal of gross-out humor, and a few references to the Baywatch TV series that are too overt to be tongue-in-cheek and, as a result, wind up falling flat.” In fact, “the endless profusion of F-bombs seems to indicate that the screenwriters must have thought they would be paid per use.”
In the end, while being a feast for the eyes, Baywatch “strains for a vulgarity that never comes remotely close to being funny.”
Efron and Johnson are the “brightest spots” of the film
“Dwayne Johnson makes a decent David Hasselhoff stand-in” and “remains a supremely likable slab of movie star” as he seems to play the only character given actually funny lines when subtly making fun of his co-star. While “Efron brings necessary charisma to the selfish and arrogant Brody.”
Eventually, “the heart of Baywatch rests on the shoulders of Johnson and Efron,” “who make the film almost watchable.” But unfortunately, “the writing of their characters isn’t very strong.”
While the female characters are pretty much overlooked
“Overshadowed by this alpha-male chest-off, the women are given thankless, almost interchangeable roles as love interests and swimsuit models.” Even Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra, who plays the villain (probably a failed attempt from the screenwriters to give women a bigger role in the film), gets a character that doesn’t have “any depth whatsoever”. She is obviously “underused” as she “looks like she was contractually obliged to show as much flesh as permissible.”
In conclusion, “Baywatch ultimately doesn’t offer much more than a superficial bro adventure.”
Best quotes from the reviews:
“No formula for success exists regarding feature films based on late 20th century television shows. There are only odds favoring partial or complete failure. So that’s comforting.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
“Honestly, I’ve seen more narratively ambitious Mad Libs.” – Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
“Andy Warhol got it wrong. It’s not that everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes; it’s that all moderately successful, mediocre television shows are destined to be reborn as feature films.” – Franck Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
“Just as nobody ever bought a Pirelli calendar simply to find out the date, the world didn’t tune into Baywatch for over a decade purely for the lifeguarding instruction.” – Steve Rose, The Guardian
“about halfway in, the gags dry up and the story sinks like an overweight tourist who took a dip too early after the all-you-can-eat surf’n’turf buffet.” – Steve Rose, The Guardian