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Wednesday, May 31, 2017 08:52 pm

Johnson’s Charisma Can’t Rescue “Baywatch”

In a world in which there is so little to believe in, yet another absolute has been disproven.  Up until seeing Baywatch, I though that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was capable of anything, but alas even he can’t save this ineffective and surprisingly crude comedy.  That’s not to say that he phones it in; if anything his charisma helps elevate this tired material, making it somewhat bearable rather than another retread of worn out ideas.

Mitch (Dwayne Johnson) comes to the rescue in Baywatch.
Courtesy Paramount Pictures

Those who live in Emerald Bay have little to worry about in their sun-drenched, posh community.  Every day is gorgeous, every one is well-heeled and their pristine beach is patrolled by the best of the best, led by Mitch Buchannon (Johnson), a mountain of a man who approaches his lifeguard duties with a seriousness befitting the splitting of atoms.  All is well in his paradise, until he’s saddled with Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a disgraced, gold medal winning, Olympic swimmer who has to complete his stint of community service with the Man-mountain’s squad.  Needless to say, the kid wants no part of this and with a chip on his shoulder the size of Everest, it’s a wonder he can float let alone swim. However, they have to put their differences aside when they discover drug runners are using the beaches of Emerald Bay as a gateway for their new product and businesswoman Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) may be behind it.     

The story, replete with one too-many action scenes and a third act that runs a good 15 minutes too long, is, excuse the expression, all wet.   Obviously, you don’t look to movies such as this for originality, yet the script by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift seems particularly derivative, perhaps because it bears such a striking resemblance to CHIPS, another lackluster adaptation. Not helping matters is director Seth Gordon’s inability to settle on a consistent tone.  Going back and forth between scenes of sophomoric humor and those of overwrought action, the movie becomes a bit of a schizophrenic affair, never fully buying into one or the other.

The antagonistic chemistry between Johnson and Effron is very good, their back-and-forth barbs generating some chuckles but hardly any big laughs.  The crudity of the jokes they’re saddled with works against them as there’s far too little time spent on actually spoofing the original television show and how ridiculous it was in the first place. In the end, Baywatch comes off as a half-hearted attempt to capitalize on a piece of nostalgia that’s still too fresh in the memory for a serious lampooning.

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