TV adaptations into film have been more hit than miss. It’s difficult to emulate the charm and fun of another show or movie because those projects were lightning in a bottle. The perfect combination of writing, casting, producing, and zeitgeist. We can’t predict what will be a hit most of the time and often that wave of popularity has an end date unless you’re The Simpsons. So instead of coming up with a new idea, and only paying homage to some previous story, we piggyback off the nostalgia of familiar titles and characters and link our movie, or TV show, directly to its original incarnation.
Now an audience must take on the challenge of disassociating their love of the original and accepting this new TV show or movie at face value, without any preconceived opinions or biases. The result is usually mixed success. I loved the original more, this made me lose interest in the franchise altogether, or the remake is actually much better. If you come across a reboot, remake, prequel, or reimagining, just remember that the original will always be there to fall back on and enjoy. I personally have no attachment to the original Baywatch TV show so I came across this new film hoping for a fun, action comedy. After all, it does have the benefit of good talent in front of the camera. Everything else after that is another story.
In Baywatch, directed by Seth Gordon, Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) is the head of a special lifeguard division in Emerald Bay, FL known as Baywatch. Every year his division holds tryouts for new recruits. One of those spots is hijacked by two-time Gold medal Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron). Brody had run-ins with the law and being a lifeguard is his community service. Other notable recruits are Summer (Alexandria Daddario) and Ronnie (Jon Bass). Mitch and Matt do not get along right away, but when drugs and dead bodies start turning up out of the water they put their differences aside to solve this case.
Much of this movie is frustratingly bad. I mentioned that the actors are talented, which they are, but the script is so poorly written they are forced to engage in dialogue that is neither creative nor funny. There is chemistry between the characters, especially between Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, so it’s not a total misfire. It just feels as though everybody is working off a first draft and corrections weren’t made. Or when improvisations were allowed, no one spoke up and said it wasn’t working. There is a slew of plot holes that go unresolved and if you suffer repeat viewings you may notice them. Some of them stick out right away, which pulls you right of the movie.
It could be said that this movie is ten years too late coming out. Which isn’t to say that a show 20, 30, or 50 years old can’t get a movie today. But when you put so little effort in the execution, you are guaranteeing it doesn’t get any more attention than a passing glance in the Netflix menu. I’ve heard comparisons to 21 Jump Street and how people thought that movie adaptation was going to turn out terrible. It ended up being hilarious and fresh. Baywatch had a chance of being great as well, but instead, it was exactly what we anticipated and offered nothing new. You will hear jokes that were already done in other movies and that kind of lazy writing is throughout the production. There is no depth to the characters and a sameness to each one of their personalities. Because of that lack of discernible character traits, nobody really stands out except for Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. Alexandra Daddario stands out, but for obvious reasons not related to personality.
The biggest problem I had with this film is how small it felt. Not in the way an indie movie feels small, but in the way the characters and scenes were structured. I never felt as if I was watching a real life situation or immersed myself in the world of lifeguards. Even in good comedies, they try to at least put the outlandish stuff in some kind of context you can relate to. The set pieces are just thrown together as moments to show off a joke. They don’t build up to anything so the payoff is minimal if at all. None of the ancillary characters behave in a way that makes sense to the plot. When someone breaks into your house, you don’t just let it happen and go about your day. If people are dying off your beach and drugs are washing ashore, maybe the public should be made aware or at least give us some indication they are concerned about it.
Baywatch is not a good movie. It needed a clever idea for us to come on board and enjoy it. Instead, it developed into a poorly constructed, sight-gag comedy that stumbles all the way to the end credits. Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron are fun at times, but their talent gets lost in the script. Alexandra Daddario has hypnotic eyes and a gorgeous body, but even that can’t save this film. In fact, I’ve always thought the one thing that made Baywatch the show so successful, one of the most watched shows internationally back in the day, is its attractive cast. Or to be blunt the T&A. Now that this franchise gets an R-rated movie, you’d expect the nudity front and center. Nope. All we got was an occasional tease of nudity here and there. In fact, most of the actual skin on the big screen was male. Nothing titillating like Magic Mike. Just more sight gags. A wasted opportunity if you ask me. It may not be what the original show was all about, but it played a large part in its success. I can’t recommend this one I’m afraid, but maybe next time the studio will try harder and actually surprise us when it puts out one of these tv adaptations. Don’t hold your breath though.
BAYWATCH: [yasr_overall_rating size=”large”]
Synopsis: Devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchanan butts heads with a brash new recruit. Together, they uncover a local criminal plot that threatens the future of the Bay.
Director: Seth Gordon
Writers: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra, Kelly Rohrbach
Runtime: 1 Hour, 56 Minutes