15 – 116mins – 2017
THE ELITE OF THE ELITE
“This all sounds like an entertaining but far-fetched TV show.”
As an 80s-baby growing up in the 90s, I know I used to watch Baywatch. It was prime ITV Saturday night cheese. The Hoff in those red trunks, Pamela Anderson in that red swimsuit, plenty of slow-motion gunning through golden sands and diving into crystal clear Californian oceans while the theme song challenged you not to sing along…. But aside from those iconic cornerstones, I seriously struggle to remember much more about it. Yet, as I sat down last night for what I anticipated to be a full-on nostalgia fest, all I kept thinking throughout this $69million big screen revival was: surely the TV show wasn’t like this?!!
Amiable dudes Dwayne The Fate of the Furious Johnson and Zac Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates Efron lead a stunning cast of toned and tanned beach beauties (plus token ‘average joe’ Jon Bass) who protect and serve the sands and seas of Emerald Bay. Beloved by the community and garnering the ire of the real police officers, they are lifeguards who also fancy themselves as amateur law enforcers. When a couple of dead bodies wash up on their shores and all the clues point to a nefarious drug ring, Lieutenant Mitch Buchanan (Johnson) and his team go undercover to flush out the criminals and make their bay a safe place once more.
I had heard a rash of poor – nay, dire – reviews for director Seth Pixels Gordon’s action-comedy reinvention, but in the mood for a mindless slice of fun at the flicks, I gave Baywatch ‘17 a chance. For the first twenty minutes or so I was mildly amused, even finding some of the banter between frienemies Mitch and disgraced new recruit Matt Brody (Efron) genuinely chucklesome (“High School Musical” is one of the many derogatory nicknames Mitch uses to belittle the “Vomit Comet”). But boy did this film test my patience the longer it hung around!
The frat boy humour verges dangerously close to sub-American Pie-style crassness; there are boob gags, penis jokes (yes – multiple!), sex jokes, drink and drug jokes, and a deluge of frankly unnecessary swearing… from people who really should know better. The film also seems unsure of its tone, switching randomly between farcical, immature sleuthing (they do love dressing up!) and more serious acts of violence (shark attack, burning boat, murder). Meanwhile, other ‘main’ characters – Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach and Ilfenesh Hadera – are given short shrift to the ‘Jefron’ bromance. They simply disappear from the story for large periods, then reappear as little more than sidekicks.
Finally, the cameos – boldly announced in the opening credits – are eye-rollingly appalling: Pamela Anderson isn’t even granted a line of dialogue, while David Knight Rider Hasselhoff plays another Mitch, mentoring the film’s Mitch when he is at his lowest ebb. Is it a dream sequence? A reincarnation joke? No, just a botched attempt at meta humour which is never expanded upon and makes me wonder why the show’s original creators were so willing to sign-off on a script which often feels more like a piss-take than an honourable homage. Still, at least it gave us a blast of “I’m Always Here”, which for all of the ten seconds it is played outdoes the entirety of the new film’s soundtrack.
CR@B’s Claw Score: