I had very little expectations for this movie. I was too young to really get into the television show. The Rock is usually awesome but a comedy like this can sink, even if Johnson does everything right.
We join a team of lifeguards, spearheaded by Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson). He’s assisted by his number two Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera) and C.J. (Kelly Rohrbach). Two new recruits are trying out for the team (Alexandra Daddario and Jon Bass). Rounding out the lifeguards is Olympic gold medalist Matt Brody (Zac Efron) who, for a reason the movie will explain, wants to be a part of this team. While saving lives, this team discovers that a dangerous new drug has taken over the beach and it’s being run by an businesswoman with ill intent for the area (Priyanka Chopra).
Let me prepare you for what’s about to happen. This movie isn’t great, so this section is going to be brief. You’ll be disappointed as you get to the negative section and you’ll feel disheartened.
But here’s the thing… This movie is exactly what you’d expect and I don’t know if anyone was expecting greatness. It’s silly and exaggerated, it knows exactly what kind of movie it wants to be. There are slow motion running shots, slow motion action sequences, and plenty of rude and crude jokes. Some of you want just that, but that doesn’t make this a good movie, it means that you’re okay with this being an eh movie. And most of you are.
Dwayne Johnson does what he can and he’s not to blame for this movie’s mediocrity but his charisma alone can’t save it. Efron is unlikeable for the entirety of the film, so he’s also lacking the charm that made movies like Neighbors solid. The movie fails in many ways that are much more foundational.
What doesn’t work?
Let’s start with the fact that this is a comedy. If it was hilarious, it would be seen as a success, that’s usually all it takes. However, it’s not hilarious. I chuckled, a lot in fact. I even laughed loud at a few moments. Those moments were drastically overshadowed by the huge gaps between laughter, where the movie became serious and wanted to focus on this dangerous drug dealer that we had in Priyanka Chopra. The movie’s tone is inconsistent and fails to do either tone well. It’s not funny enough to be memorable but the serious portions are laughably bad as well.
I don’t put the blame solely on Chopra as our villain but this was a mistake in casting. She lacked the threat and danger, so you never felt like there was anything at stake. On the page, too much time and effort was spent trying to build up her character, which didn’t result in anything worthwhile, and in fact slowed the movie to a halt in most instances. The plot is also incredibly predictable, from the first few moments as you meet all the players.
Let’s talk about the action here, because there are a few “big” action sequences but all of them lack punch. The computer effects and green-screen are horribly obvious and these scenes feel inconsequential, as opposed to leaving you on the edge of your seat. There’s a sequence with a boat on fire that is especially horrid in terms of effects.
I also had a big problem with the music here. In the opening moments, while the credits were flashing by, we had four of five different songs play. I’m not sure if the problem is the quantity of songs or the way they were transitioned, which brought this to your attention in a jarring way. This problem reminded me of Suicide Squad, where it felt like the movie was more like a music video than an actual film.
In terms of writing, it’s all very cliche. The jokes are gross and over the top but all strangely familiar, plucked from other R-rated movies like this. The jokes are improvised but these actors aren’t strong improvisers. There are many groan-worthy moments and it’s surprising that those are the moments they kept in the film.
Baywatch is exactly what you expect. The Rock being snappy, Efron with his shirt off, and plenty of slow motion running scenes. The jokes don’t always land, the action sequences don’t look great or have any impact, and the whole thing overall feels very unoriginal. It’s surprisingly slow, focusing on a villain that you won’t care about, which means you’ll be checking your watch plenty.