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.
Baywatch is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The ultra-high-definition 2160p image is arrived at by an HEVC codec with an average bitrate of 60 mbps. This is a 2K upgrade, as most newer films will be this early in the format’s adoption. The ultra-high-definition image presentation takes full advantage of the color boost the HDR provides. Reds are quite saturated and stand out, from the film’s titles to the red lifeguard uniforms on the girls. I was surprised that the film wasn’t excessively bright, when you consider how much of this is shot on the beach. The lighting is actually quite natural. Of courser, the cheesy f/x on that boat fire look really bad in 4K. I know it was a bit of a gag, but it’s a distraction to a pretty solid image presentation. Black levels are a little soft, but there’s still plenty of detail. The ocean looks sweet, and there’s a ton of that in this film. You get some nice texture here from everything including beach sand and costumes. Flesh tones are really accurate and give you the intended suntanned warm colors. There must have been a temptation to go overboard (pun intended) with the bright and snappy colors, but credit the transfer team for staying more realistic overall.
The Dolby Atmos presentation defaults to a 7.1 track. This is mostly a dialog film. Yes, there are plenty of action sequences, and they do liven up the surrounds a bit. The best surround work, however, is the subtle crashing of distant waves and seagulls. These kinds of things add atmosphere. Subs are pretty solid for this kind of film. A lot of it comes from the percussive score, but there’s plenty of room shaking during the action sequences.
The extras are all on the Blu-ray copy of the film:
Meet The Lifeguards: (21:36) The feature looks at each of the film’s characters and becomes pretty much a mutual admiration society. They all particularly talk about how much fun they had dropping F-bombs and basically getting to play with the film’s R rating.
Continuing The Legacy: (9:26) It’s sweet that everyone here thinks that Baywatch is the most successful show in television history and make sure to say that every thirty seconds. There are clips from the original as cast and crew talk about how much they loved the original show.
Stunts And Training: (9:09) You’d think this would be more about the pre-film program, but it’s just an excuse to see The Rock and Efron doing pushups on the set.
Extended and Deleted Scenes: (10:06) There are six with a handy play-all.
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.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani