By Liam Lacey
Baywatch, an innocuous ‘90s lifeguard adventure TV show devoted to slo-mo shots of young women with enhanced chests in red bathing suits, has been updated to Baywatch, the movie, a dumb, mildly gross-out comedy about the rivalry/bromance between two muscular men, Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron.
Following the model of bad-TV parodies like the recent, CHIPs, Baywatch - which was directed by Horrible Bosses’ Seth Gordon - flounders between intentionally and carelessly dumb.
On the intentional side, there’s the TV adventure parody: a sleazy developer named Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra, acting with a sneer and lots of cleavage), little baggies of drugs that wash up on the shore, and those flashy parties where people do their best detective work.
On the unintentional side, the gags are obvious and dragged out, the violence excessive and the editing choppy and sloppy. Even the end-credits gag reel feels like there must be a better one somewhere.
Even the likeable Dwayne Johnson, wiggling his eyebrows and pecs, can’t bring this stiff to life. He plays Mitch Buchannon, famed boss of a California lifeguard team, who enjoys his beach celebrity and provides speeches about teamwork (yes, the original Mitch, David Hasselhoff shows up, as does Pamela Anderson). He also oversees the massively popular annual tryouts for new lifeguard positions, an event that is portrayed like a combination of spring break and the running of the bulls.
Among the improbable winners is Ronnie (Jon Bass), an out-of-shape guy who is so obsessed with sexy lifeguard CJ (Kelly Rohrbach) that he moves his mouth like a dog eating peanut butter. In his big scene, Ronnie, after viewing CJ’s jiggling breasts, gets his genitals ensnared between the slats of a beach chair; their extraction seems to occupy about a third of the movie.
Another winning candidate is Summer (Alexandra Daddario) the brunette who essentially serves as a bookend to CJ’s blonde. The third female in the posters is the regal Stephanie (Ilfenish Hadera) Mitch’s second-in-command, and his possible romantic interest - though she has so few lines, that’s really just a guess. Women aren’t really what this movie is about
The other new life guard is Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a lifeguard with a bad attitude - which you can tell because he shows up on a motorcycle wearing sunglasses. Matt is a disgraced former double gold-medal Olympic champ (think Ryan Lochte) who is apparently doing community service for vomiting in a pool.
Boss lifeguard Mitch takes one look at the newbie’s torso taut and popping (think of a condom filled with rocks) and is determined to break him down. Mostly, this consists of referring to him by the names of various boy bands, which is sort of funny.
Later, in the film’s other major extended gag, he embarrasses the new recruit by taking phone pictures of Matt handling the scrotum of a cadaver, a scene which manages to mix homophobia and corpse desecration but, like the movie as a whole, feels more tedious than offensive.
Baywatch, directed by Seth Gordon, written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. Showing at Cineplex Yonge Eglinton, Cineplex, Yonge Dundas, Cineplex Yorkdale, Market Square and Scotiabank Toronto.
Liam Lacey is a former film critic for The Globe and Mail, as well as contributor to various other media outlets over the past 37 years.. He recently returned to Canada from Spain because he forgot about the weather.