It is appropriate that the summer movie season kicks off with Baywatch.
A film that is willing to take the advertising strategy of “boobs”, is one for which it is appropriate to temper expectations slightly, and with the exception of a long stretch in the middle of the film that has a strangely serious tone, the Seth Gordon-helmed film mostly delivers on its promise. I mean, sure, the cast is nice to look at (even the villain of the film Priyanka Chopra, is a former Miss World), and The Rock (as Mitch Buchannon) and Kelly Rohrbach (as C.J. Parker) do passable stand-ins for David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson (despite not looking like them), and though The Hoff and Pammy deliver on their promised appearances, (Hasselhoff acting as a Spock figure for The Rock, amusingly), this is a minor reboot. Which means that there are some new characters (Jon Bass as determined Ronnie, doing his best Josh Gad impersonation, Hannibal Buress as Dave the Tech, the aforementioned Chopra), some revisiting of previous characters in new concepts (Alexandra Daddario as Summer Quinn, Ilfenesh Hadera as Stephanie Holden), and Zac Efron playing Zac Efr…Matt Brody, but with a backstory that makes him feel like Ryan Lochte.
Essentially, Baywatch is at its best when it allows its troupe of performers to do what they do best: hang out making zingers and looking good. It succeeds at doing this well, as some of the raunchier bits are funny, and doesn’t need to dumb it down to the degree of some of the previous films of the type. However, a sequence in the morgue lasts far too long, the kick punching feels redundant, the women are wasted for large stretches and even The Rock feels like a supporting player, (this is Efron’s film, like him or not). But what is most refreshing about Baywatch is that no matter what is going on, whether an audience member has seen the original show or is coming to Baywatch for the first time, the actors look like they’re having a good time. The tone is light and airy and everybody seems to be in on the joke, and this is a movie that is a good time. It’s likely twenty or thirty minutes over (again, the middle section needs some refining), but this film is an escape, so jump in, the water’s fine. I was ready. Will you be?