Verge Reviews: Baywatch

Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron team up and tan-up in this summer comedy, as the reboot of the classic TV show ticks most of the boxes.

Baywatch is known all around the world for three main things; David Hasselhoff, red swimsuits and slow-motion beach running. When it was announced that Baywatch would hit the big screen, I think it’s safe to say that most were interested in how it would turn out, especially with Dwayne Johnson taking over from The Hoff as Mitch Buchannon who made that role and the show so iconic. Thankfully, the swimsuits and slow-mo runs are back and under Seth Gordon, Johnson and Zac Efron, so is the comedy.

As you’d expect with anything Baywatch, the plot isn’t exactly groundbreaking. The film begins with try-outs for aspiring lifeguards who are looking to make it onto the celebrated lifeguarding team The Watch, headed by Mitch Buchannon (Johnson), Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera) and CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach). Before the trials commence, the brooding, ex-Olympic Champion swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron) turns up looking to join the team, providing the council an opportunity for good publicity and possible extra funding. Buchannon immediately has an issue with Brody’s attitude and warns him of the responsibilities of the job, before humiliating him in a number of weight lifting activities. Of all the trialists though, one stands out in particular, Ronnie, (John Bass) a previously unsuccesful candidate who is larger than most and who has a clear infatuation with CJ. After recovering a fairly embarrassing incident involving his genitals and deckchair and managing to manifest his way through the try-outs Ronnie, along with Summer (Alexandra Daddario) and Brody manage to make the cut. When Buchannon finds drugs washed up on the beach, he informs his boss Captain Thorpe (Rob Heubel) and asks the Police to investigate further. After becoming suspicious of Victoria Leeds and her plans to sell off the land that The Watch patrol, Buchannon and his team take matters into their own hands and become much more than just lifeguards.

In many ways, the film has a few more layers than you’d expect. It was nice to see the film attempt to steer away from the previous stereotypes that the TV show sometimes struggle to break away from. Although there are plenty of shots of the red swimsuits and Johnson and Efrons God-like torsos, clearly a lot of thought had gone into making something with more weight and credibility behind the plot. I really enjoyed the financial element that was threatening to close the bay, it’s a very current dilemma that I’m sure a lot of councils are more than aware of but I don’t think this plot line combined with the drug trafficking idea worked. It almost gave you too much to think about and made the storyline slightly more complicated and longer than it should’ve been, especially with a running time 116 minutes! Baywatch certainly gets off to a fast pace and is fun throughout but it does seem to drag on, especially in terms of the storyline when you do start to wonder at what point the team will eventually save the day.

In true Seth Gordon style, he manages to get the best comedic performances from his cast with Johnson, Efron and Bass excelling in their roles. Not that this should be a surprise to many given his previous successes with Modern Family and Horrible Bosses. There are some brilliantly awkward, weird and disgusting scenes involving exploding limbs, melting fat, an ever-changing Buchannon fish tank figure and Zac Efron delicately touching a dead man’s scrotum providing a variety of laughs. The chemistry between Johnson and Efron in particular is excellent and the storyline of Ronnie and CJ’s friendship is also very enjoyable but I would have like to have seen more from Summer and Stephanie. Summer in particular seems to just be there as a reminder that Brody is capable of thinking less selfishly and you can practically count all of Stephanie’s lines on one hand, which doesn’t exactly help her case to be Buchannon’s natural replacement. There are some great cameos in the film and it does well to not take itself too seriously, there are plenty of references to the original TV series and the question of ‘why was this so popular?’ does come up a couple of times.

All in all, it’s safe to say that the return of Baywatch could have been a car crash, but it’s not. It is exactly what you’d expect from Baywatch and not a lot more, but Gordon has delivered a funny summer comedy with plenty of laughs and some brilliant cameos that I’m sure will appeal to old and new fans alike.

Rating 3/5
Baywatch is released in the UK on Monday 29th May and Thursday 25th May in the USA by Paramount
Watch the official trailer here

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