In the vein established by 21 Jump Street of taking a serious television series and transforming it into a comedy comes Baywatch. I’m sure everyone remembers Baywatch, possibly one of the most watched television series of all time that featured buxom ladies like Pamela Anderson and Yasmine Bleeth in tight swimsuits, running in slow motion. Transplanted for a moderate time period, this film adaptation features this generation’s hard bodies such as Zac Efron, Dwayne Johnson, and Alexandria Daddario (those eyes are hypnotic) taking on the established and iconic roles of Matt Brody, Mitch Buchannon, and Summer Quinn.
In Emerald Bay, an elite squad of lifeguards patrols the beach, going above and beyond to protect the people of the community. Led by Mitch Buchannon, this group finds themselves investigating murder and the increase in drug activity, which leads to businesswoman Victoria Leeds, who has a plan to privatize the beach, and surrounding businesses.
Aiding Buchannon on his mission is Matt Brody (Efron), a former Olympic swimmer looking to reinvent himself following an earlier scandal. Exceeding their jurisdiction, these hard-bodied (and one technically soft-bodied) lifeguards must prove that this respected businesswoman is dirty before she can complete her plans. This will be quite a feat, given that they tend to run in slow motion.
Having never watched the show, I cannot say how closely the movie resembles it, but I can with confidence address one major difference: genre switch from drama to comedy. A wise decision in my opinion, because I can guarantee that I would have had a hard time taking a movie about lifeguards seriously. Being presented as a comedy allows the film to make fun of itself as these lifeguards attempt to act as the law on and off the beach when in actuality they have no authority whatsoever, something that is pointed out several times by one of the film’s funniest characters, police officer Garner Ellerbee.
Though the film does have a few moments of genuine comedy, I expected more than I got. Clearly a case of the best parts being shown in the trailers, which desensitizes the audience to these scenes and ruins their overall effect; this was definitely the case for the morgue scene. That said, there remain a few gems such as the introduction scene between Johnson and Efron, which set up their initially antagonistic and eventually mutually respectful relationship. Also as I mentioned earlier, the Ellerbee character played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II provides a supply of quips that are very enjoyable.
Character development is minimal in the story, as the primary focus of the story is on Johnson and Efron. Even Johnson’s Buchannon leaves something to be desired in regards to why his job is so important to him. I would have like to have gotten a little bit more backstory with the Summer character and especially with the Stephanie Holden character, who is honestly the most underdeveloped of them all. She occupies a position of importance as Mitch’s second in command and possible love interest, and yet she is essentially nothing more than window dressing for a majority of the film. In regards to character development, there didn’t need to be a flashback sequence or anything that major. Merely something similar to when Efron describes her upbringing with Daddario would have sufficed.
To that end as well, Priyanka Chopra is a less than compelling antagonist. She starts off with some intrigue with a brief glimpse of her ambitions, but I would have liked to have seen her more ruthless. She comes off as a supposed evil genius who is doomed to fail because she has idiotic henchmen. I would have loved to have seen her get her hands dirty. As it stands, most of her most sinister actions happen off-screen.
If you were a fan of 21 Jump Street, you will undoubtable be a fan of Baywatch, which in many ways is basically a carbon copy of that film. The film has the potential to win the box office this week, but continuing victory in the coming weekends is unlikely. Though the comedy is not as great as I had initially hoped it would be, I can’t complain about the eye candy, which from what I hear was the source of television series’ success.