Life’s A Beach
Baywatch follows the titular team of lifeguards operating on the Florida beach of Emerald Bay, heroically protecting the public from the dangers of the sea. In charge of the seaside overseers is Lt Mitch Buchannon [Johnson]. I don’t recall why he’s a Lieutenant but he is and it’s apparently very important. Under his command are lifeguards Stephanie [Ilfenesh Hadera] and CJ [Rohrbach] (among others) but patrolling the beach is a dangerous job and as such, try-outs for new recruits are always welcome. But the life of a Baywatcher is harder than it looks as the selection process proves gruelling for new recruits, steely Summer Quinn [Daddario], average guy Ronnie [Bass] and Olympic gold medallist and testosterone nightmare Matt Brody [Efron]. Meanwhile, Mitch starts investigating the nearby Huntley Club run by the shady Victoria Leeds [Chopra] who may be linked to drugs turning up on the beach.
In an era of big budget parodies and franchise-building remakes, there is something to be said for the novel concept of the remake/parody hybrid; the kind of film that takes all the cheesiness of a source material and both revels in and ridicules it at the same time. It’s a rather bold choice that shouldn’t work but 21 Jump Street proved it is a legitimate way of celebrating all the best and silliest qualities of a familiar brand. But it’s not an easy sell and without an extremely charismatic cast and a very clever and funny script you end up with face-palm inducing dross like Dukes Of Hazzard, CHIPS and now Baywatch. Despite what David Hasselhoff has said over the years, Baywatch is not some trailblazing progressive piece, it’s attractive people in skimpy outfits running across the beach in slow-motion; a fact which most of its fans and critics can agree upon. But a film which openly acknowledges this fact should be able to highlight all the flaws, tropes and stupid situations in order to produce something memorable and entertaining. What we end up with, however, is a string of episodic, unconnected, obvious and flat-falling sexually charged jokes with a sporadically placed plot about drugs on the idyllic beach scene.
*Spoiler at the end of the paragraph*
Despite the atrocious script flitting between straight-faced exposition pushing a formulaic story and humourless setups, the leads are all more than capable actors who do their best to channel as much charm, competence and energy as possible but to no avail. Johnson delivers decently and Efron is wonderfully obnoxious but that is the height of what we’re given. The remainder is in the form of Ronnie, a horrifyingly shitty everyman character, and a score of women that are wasted. Getting back to Ronnie later, let’s take a look at the female troupe. Top of the four leads is Alexandra Daddario’s Quinn, who goes from eager lifeguard trainee with no time for Brody’s shit to peripheral love interest via a series of lazy boob jokes. Then we have Kelly Rohrbach as Pamela Anderson replacement, CJ, who does her absolute damnedest to rise above the two dimensions of her character but all the script gives her is tits and ass jokes. I would talk about Ilfenesh Hadera as senior lifeguard Stephanie but the script does so little with her, I have practically nothing to work with. Finally we have the menacing villain who is refreshingly female and makes valid statements about if she were a man she would be treated differently and praised for being ambitious (or something along those lines) but any potential there is lost once she gets blown up by a giant roman candle while dangling from a helicopter.
Despite the utter damning this film deserves, it should be noted that it excels on a small handful of platforms. The cinematography, while unadventurous is completely serviceable. The direction and editing are bright, clear and straightforward – as is common in many big budget comedies – and the visual effects are surprisingly competent. These can easily be overlooked when the central focus of a film of this nature is the laughs but with the sound and visual design functioning perfectly, it must be at least afforded the praise it deserves. I will also throw some praise to Christopher Lennertz’s score which riffs through the “investigation,” giving way for musical tracks that, while a little on the nose, are acceptably selected.
I wasn’t expecting anything substantial from this movie – I’m fully aware of what a fucking Baywatch film would consist of – but the fact it failed to even rise above tedium and the only observations in the script were sophomoric at best, means what we’re left with is a bland, forgettable release.
26th May 2017
The Scene To Look Out For:
As the credits roll, Baywatch follows the Smokey And The Bandit trope of reeling off a load of bloopers. For the most part the corpsing and line flubbing is amusing but then we are shown a medley of costume adjustments. To crassly clarify, I mean pulling short dresses down, digging things out of cracks and shoving breasts back into place. I think it was supposed to be some sort of titillating consolation for the lack of nudity throughout (bar a fake penis) but it just came off as a bit tawdry – like a lot of the film in fact.
Ronnie. I see characters like Ronnie all the flipping time. Ronnie is the sideways wink to the male members of the audience, the nod to placate anyone who isn’t a chiselled Adonis to say “Even you could end up with a babe like CJ.” Ads, TV, film, there are so many times we’re presented with an average, slightly out of shape dude who wins the affection of a woman vastly more attractive than him. Now, I’m not going to say these men are bridge-trolls who are unworthy of love but the fact that there would never be a role reversal wherein a relatively plain lady is courted by some smouldering muscle-cake betrays this film’s eye-rolling obviousness. Maybe I’m overreacting: Ronnie’s fun and CJ likes his personality, right? Fuck that and fuck you, Ronnie HAS NO personality, he’s just a quivering 1980’s nerdy horndog with little in the way of redeeming qualities.
“You gonna be cool and go over and talk to her or are you gonna stay up here like Mr Creeper Creeperton with your binoculars?”
In A Few Words:
“Hardly a wasted opportunity, considering the source material, but a disappointment nevertheless”