For anyone in their early 30s, you probably spent many a Saturday evening watching Stars in Their Eyes and Gladiators. Fun, entertaining shows for all the family. However, if you were even earlier to the punch, you’d also have enjoyed one of the most ridiculous yet rewarding shows of its (or any) time. From the opening bars of the power ballad theme tune, to slow motion running of red swimsuited women, Baywatch just took all the glamour and sex appeal of the sunny beach, and threw in nonsense plots regarding crimes, danger, and probably cyber attacks (I don’t know I stopped watching long before its 2001 cancellation). Now, since it’s been 16 years – and Hollywood loves a brand name – let’s bring it back with tongue firmly in cheek.
For those unfamiliar with the show, it centres around a bunch of lifeguards who constantly overstep their bounds and get caught up in exciting shenanigans. As Zac Efron’s disgraced Olympic Gold Medalist, Matt Brody, observes after being recounted some previous adventures of his new colleagues, “It all sounds like a far-fetched but very entertaining TV show.” Here, Efron is one of three new recruits who join Mitch Buchannon’s (Dwayne Johnson) team of ridiculously worshiped lifeguards. They are local celebs, but being in need of funding, ex-Olympic hero Brody is forced onto the team, at the behest of Buchannon. As the two butt heads, Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) is buying up all property around the bay, while her competition seems to be disappearing. There’s also an entirely “unrelated” drug subplot.
The most impressive aspect of Baywatch’s transition to the big screen is just how faithful it feels. Those concerned of a complete parody in Starsky & Hutch terms needn’t threat, as although the film has no fear in ribbing its predecessor, it also embraces the madness and the cheese. This also means that the film is never as funny as you would expect it to be. Always chucklesome, but never hilarious, the film’s humour finds it hard to break free. Both Johnson and Efron seem restrained, while the female cast are given next to no humour. Most humour is reserved for Jon Bass’ less toned cadet, and although he has a number of stand out moments, some feel forced into the script, and that’s not a pun on one specific set-piece.
Johnson and Efron certainly have a chemistry, but by placing them at odds for the majority of the film Baywatch does itself a disservice by not allowing these two to truly connect. Johnson is the epitome of what David Hassellhoff’s character probably imagined himself as, while Efron is a suitable young, cocky, upstart. They certainly bring an action pedigree however, although this is also mixed, with hand-to-hand combat resorting to the jittery nonsensical camerawork we were just getting over, while chase sequences are exciting and easy to follow.
No one should expect too much from Baywatch. It is exactly what the show was, with some added self-referential humour. There are a few of the supporting cast who have obviously been chosen for their comedic prowess, and their ad-libbing struggles to find a natural climate in the more plot-based escapades. Baywatch’s biggest downfall is not knowing whether to embrace the show, make fun of it, or try to break new ground. With a few alterations this could have been ‘Lifeguards’ the movie, and perhaps wouldn’t have struggled so much to find it’s own identity. As it stands, this is enjoyable summer nonsense that is unlikely to disappoint anyone who had the foresight to watch the trailer.
Bonus: Includes featurettes Meet the Lifeguards, Continuing the Legacy, Stunts & Training, as well as deleted & Extended Scenes. Blu-ray disc includes both original version and extended edition.
Baywatch is out now on digital download, DVD & Blu-ray.