By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
With the huge critical and financial success of the Jump Street movies, other studios have quickly followed suit with more comedic film adaptations of televisions series, though most of them have yet to achieve the same levels of success and acclaim (Dark Shadows, CHiPs). From 1989 through 2001, the cheesy, and often melodramatic, action drama series Baywatch aired and gained a massive following. The silly and corny adventures of beach lifeguards, who often fought crime and performed other services above and beyond the call of duty, offers loads upon loads of rich fodder deserving of the spoof treatment. This is what seven writers and director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters) have attempted to do with their Baywatch movie. Starring Dwayne Johnson, the film does succeed in delivering some good laughs, but within a mostly formulaic and cliche plot and story.
Johnson stars as Lt. Mitch Buchannon, the no-nonsense, but charismatic head of Baywatch, a team of lifeguards protecting the beaches of Emerald Bay, Florida. The time for the new lifeguard tryouts has arrived. Mitch, his second-in-command Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera), and lifeguard C.J. Parker (Kelly Rohrbach) must select a handful of new recruits from a large group of interested women and men. Shoe-in and former Olympic gold medal winner Matt Brody (Zac Effron), the athletic and spirited Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) and the not-so-athletic, but smart and determined Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass) make the cut, but still must prove themselves worthy during their training. When Mitch discovers that a new dangerous drug is being sold on his beaches and possibly has a connection with the new luxurious Huntley Club owned by Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), the passionate leader and his Baywatch team must go above and beyond the call of duty to eliminate the vile threat.
Written by Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garrant, Damian Shannon, and Mark Swift, the comedic film adaptation of Baywatch does have a decent share of fun moments, genuinely funny comedy, but also has some comedic duds and a story/plot that feels lifted from the 21 Jump Street film franchise. The elements of a dangerous new drug, seemingly innocent people involved in the drug trade, and new recruits having to prove their worth are exactly identical to the very first Jump Street film; however, without the wonderfully sharp wit and the superbly directed action that made both of the Jump Street movies action/comedy gems. For sure, fans of the television series will enjoy the references, and humor directed towards the series that inspired this movie. There is nothing really new here, though, as the film doesn’t have its own signature style or defining characteristics that sets it apart from the show or other comedic TV adaptations.
The performances by the cast are fine with Johnson being the main standout by doing what he does best–flexing his charismatic chops, natural screen presence and comic timing. Zac Effron offers a competent performance Matt Brody, the arrogant and self-centered former Olympiad who has a little in common with and probably the same intelligence level as Jenko (Channing Tatum) in Jump Street. Alexandra Daddario is enjoyable as Summer Quinn, Brody’s confident and hard-to-get romantic foil. Kelly Rohrbach is easy on the eyes and highly likable as C.J. Parker and Jon Bass is charmingly funny as Ronnie Greenbaum. I wasn’t all that impressed with Priyanka Chopra, an actress I just didn’t buy in the role of villainous Victoria Leeds and Ifenesh Hadera, who doesn’t really have all that much to do in the film. The movie also features fun performances and appearances by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Hannibal Buress, and Rob Huebel.
And even though I found myself laughing every so often during the film, I just don’t feel right giving this film a higher rating. Audiences should find the film moderately entertaining and possibly worthy of a matinee ticket, but I honestly cannot recommend spending any more than that. The foundation is there, so should this movie manage to achieve some financial success, I hope the filmmakers put more effort into more original and imaginative story writing and character development for the sequel. Cinema does not need any more clones of other movies.