Movie studios appear to have noticed the success of movies like “21 Jump Street,” as this “Baywatch” adaptation has very similar vibes.
Like the TV series of the same name, “Baywatch” follows a group of lifeguards led by Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) who take their jobs a bit more seriously than others in the profession.
The movie picks up during tryouts for new spots on the Baywatch team at the start of summer. After a competition, three candidates are selected to become trainees, including an Olympic Gold medalist in Matt Brody (Zac Efron). The issue, though, is that Brody is selfish and overconfident, causing him to immediately clash with Mitch. Mitch has to rally the entire team including Mitch, though, when they uncover a plot by a drug lord near the beach.
As stated in the lede, this movie does have comedic elements that are similar to pictures like “21” and “22 Jump Street,” where the film has self aware humor and pokes fun at its TV counterpart. For example, the movie acknowledges the slow-motion runs that the TV show was known for.
When the movie does poke fun at its more absurd aspects, such as when police officers are noting that they’re just lifeguards and not law enforcement, it works.
However, this only makes up a portion of the film’s overall comedy, which creates a detriment to the finished product. The movie also inserts more practical attempts at comedy, but not all of it works very well. These range from slapstick to gross out humor and the result is largely hit or miss.
This also creates a bit of a clash in tones that don’t mesh very well at times. At some points the film feels more like a complete self-aware satirical parody and at others it comes off as more of a direct adaptation with comedic elements.
More or less, this means that the segments of the movie making a farce of the show are much better than those that go the way of a more standard comedy, creating a pretty average picture.
This extends to the characters, too. The two lead characters, Mitch and Matt, are played with a ton of charisma by Johnson and Efron and their banter really provides some funny sequences. Many of their interactions include Matt mocking the over-serious nature of the lifeguard team and Mitch ridiculing Matt over his ‘boy band’ look. Without a doubt, these two are the best the movie has to offer.
The rest of the characters are largely forgettable and even one was unnecessary. Jon Bass played the character Ronnie in the movie, one of the new recruits who’s not as toned as the rest and is a bit of a bumbler. The big issue is that he’s playing what normally would be the comic relief character, except every character is trying to play things humorous so whenever Bass’ character does something it seems over-the-top.
Also a bit of a blunder was the movie’s villain played by Priyanka Chopra. This is another area where the movie’s clashing tone worked against it as the villain was quite generic and could have been much funnier.
At the end of the day, “Baywatch” did have some really funny moments and it worked best when it was having some fun with the concept. Plus, the Johnson and Efron are great here. Yet the film’s other offerings are just too generic and not all the comedy lands. It’s an OK summer cinematic experience, but could have been more. 3.0 out of 5.