With some films, tempering expectations is best. For films like “Baywatch,” which are meant to simply be silly, if a bit ridiculous fun, it’s easy to do so. The comedy, a reboot of the classic ’90s TV show of the same name, has some things going for it. Dwayne Johnson’s one-liners, the random dirty jokes, Priyanka Chopra as a villain all play out in a bit of a zany way. However, despite some fun in the sun, “Baywatch” runs for about forty minutes too long and as soon as it turns into a redemption story, it takes most of the fun out of the film and tries to become more than it was meant to be.
Head lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) runs his beach like he would a military operation. He’s organized, calculated, and attentive. Mitch takes his job very, very seriously and has no time for any potential recruit who doesn’t do the same. After all, he reminds his staff, lives are at stake. Enter Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a former Olympic gold-winning swimmer who ruined his career by choosing not to be a team player. Matt is the exact opposite of Mitch. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself nor does he think very highly of the job he’s basically being handed with little effort. Mitch and Matt duke it out in several instances of verbal confrontation, but the two have to at least try and put their differences aside when drugs and dead bodies begin popping up on their beach.
One of the things that can be appreciated about the movie is that it least doesn’t take itself too seriously. At least, not at first. “Baywatch” pokes fun of itself and its cast on several occasions, with Dwayne Johnson at one point calling Zac Efron “High School Musical” straight to his face. It’s all in good fun and for awhile, this ridiculous and over-the-top atmosphere is enough to sustain the film, allowing it to fall into the brainless fun category. Johnson as Mitch is a bizarre life guard version of a superhero, with the build, attitude, and charisma all very ever-present throughout the film. It’s unfortunate then that his larger-than-life presence is overshadowed a bit by the film’s need to redeem Efron’s character. It’s at this turning point where “Baywatch” goes from harmless beach insanity to a bit heavy in its need to give Efron’s character the development and redemption arc the film didn’t need.
Priyanka Chopra is a standout as the villain Victoria Leeds, but even then, her relationship and interactions with the rest of the team, Johnson in particular, are underutilized. There was chemistry there and the movie decided to ignore it. Moving on to the rest of the women in the movie, (Alexandra Daddario, Ilfenesh Hadera, Kelly Rohrbach), they’re also not used to their full capacity, most of them getting very little development and Ilfenesh Hadera in particular has very little speaking lines, even though she’s Johnson’s second in command on the team. The film could have definitely benefited from a more tightly-knit female dynamic instead of spending so much time on Efron’s man pain, considerably mopey demeanor, and Jon Bass’ character’s attempts to get the girl, but alas. Some fun in the sun never hurt anyone, and “Baywatch” is full of those crazy and ridiculous moments, but it’s ultimately bogged down after its focus shifts in the second half of the film.
Some fun in the sun never hurt anyone, and "Baywatch" is full of those crazy and ridiculous moments, but it's ultimately bogged down after its focus shifts in the second half of the film.