What to say about Baywatch, the new movie from Paramount and Horrible Bosses director Seth Gordon, that can’t simply be assumed? R-rated by virtue of scatalogical humor – penii, both of the flaccid and majorly erect variety, crowd the screen; jaws dangle, gawking at flopping mammaries; – and frivolous vulgarities, Baywatch fails to insert much conviction into its raunch and lacks even more in the originality department.
Not nearly as good as it could have been in a perfect world nor terrible enough to muster much enthusiasm for bashing the thing, Baywatch exists in this cineplex limbo of macho meh-dom. There’s not much to do with it other than but chuckle here and there, assume guilt for said chuckling, promptly exit the theater and forget that the thing exists at all.
Baywatch, to its very core, is a cheesy product; a fruit stand for bouncing boobies, succulent bottoms, banana slings and beefcakes, the later of which is represented by the admittedly stupidly hunky Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. Both dudes sport muscle groups I didn’t know existed, hoping that rockin’ bods will cover up the hollow interior of Gordon’s juvenile sandbox. The film adopts a slew of basic movie formulas without the faintest surf of novelty. There’s the unwilling apprentice/master relationship explored between Johnson’s stern but paternal Mitch Buchannon and Efron’s cocky, gold-metal Olympian Matt Brody; a will-they-or-won’t-they flirtation shared betwixt Brody and recent trainee Summer (Alexandra Daddario); and an unlikely romantic flirtation between Perfect “10” CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach) and pudgy super-nerd (who, le sigh, has a ig ol’ dingus) Ronnie (Jon Bass). Why movies have apparently decided to run with the trope of nerds have big wankers is beyond my grasp but believe me, we get no shortage of Ronnie’s enflamed johnson throughout Baywatch. So there’s that to, ahem, chew on.
Ilfenesh Hadera is Stephanie Holden, a character whose only purpose is to up the diversity quotient as is Hannibal Buress, who is involved for but a moment before inexplicably being fed to sharks. In a movie filled with questionable content – most notable of which is why this movie was made at all – wasting Hannibal Buress is probably the most openly egregious. Sure, Hannibal hasn’t seen an illustrious cinematic rise nor has he really been given much of a chance to shine in studio comedies but his pointless ousting here seems particularly wasteful. So boo on you Baywatch.
Overcoming personal differences and a number of dick-related encounters, the lifeguards-turned-super-spies must join together to take down the nefarious Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), a real estate mogul who makes her millions pushing a new drug called Flakka. Mitch describes Flakka as “bath salts on meth” which got me wondering – Do we really need to one-up bath salts? I mean someone literally ate someone else’s face on bath salts. That was in the news. It’s a thing. That happened. Must the bar be raised from literally becoming a zombie? I digress.
For most of its runtime, Baywatch (or Ohhh! My Crotch!) splashes around in the kiddie pool, pitching jokes much more likely to get a rise out of a pre-teen than the presumed “adults” legally allowed to buy tickets for the flick. That being said, I did find myself laughing along with the crowd here and there. I’m immature at heart, sue me. There’s nothing particularly standout about any of the jokes – and some of them, including Mitch telling one of Victoria’s henchman it’s “bath time” before throwing him in a pool, are outright terrible – nor will I probably be able to recall anything about the film a few months from now but I didn’t necessarily have a terrible time taking them in. I let them flow over me; a golden shower of stupidity. Like watching a kid cuss, the film is almost inoffensively puerile. It’s trying so hard to be “bad” that it comes off looking totally innocent and innocuous. Looking to a rise from onlookers, Baywatch descends to the most base jokes so we’ll snigger – but never bust a gut – our way through it and then soon after data-dump it from our mental storage space. Having Dwayne Johnson’s commanding screen presence does the film a lot of favors – the later half of Baywatch suffers when Mitch goes missing from the investigation – as does showcasing the bikini zones of both Rohrbach and Daddario. Mileage earned from natural charisma and the physical form only extend so far however but never hurt. What does hurt the film most is its blatant mismanagement of self-awareness. Surely the cast and crew are in on the joke and go to great lengths to make sure that you’re aware of that fact – Ronnie looks astounded when Summer acknowledges that she too sees CJ running “in slo-mo” – but there’s a distinct difference between taking pride in the campiness of your product and actually just making fun of the movie you’re actively making. Sadly, Baywatch is mostly the latter. And no amount of wiener jokes can overcum that fact.
CONCLUSION: This modern day Baywatch redux fails to make any real splash but does offer a smorgasbord of hot beach bods dashing in slow-motion atop the sandy shoals. There’s a few laughs to be had – mostly dick jokes mind you – but the characters and story mostly wade in the shallow end of the pool, lacking the depth and care to crest into a cannonball-sized hit.