Thursday, 1 June 2017

"You got one job, make sure swimming happy white people don't drown."

On paper, Baywatch sounds ripe with guilty pleasure – an update on one of the most popular, and cheesy, TV shows of all time, played for giggles and filled with beautiful people wearing very little. On screen, however, Baywatch flounders. If you are hoping for the meta yet mainstream, smart and stupid fun of the Jump Street movies, lower your expectations. Better still, re-watch the Jump Street movies instead...

It starts slickly enough, with an extended homage to the show's signature slow motion style. A sea rescue climaxes in the movie's title rising with tacky grandeur from the ocean, behind the rippling physique of alpha lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson).

Oddly, such over the top flourishes turn out to be few and far between. A couple more might have eased the overstretched plod of the plot, which has two strands – one centred on a drug trafficking operation masterminded by slinky villain Victoria Leeds (Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra), the other on drafting and moulding new recruits to the squad.

The 'thriller' side of the story is sub CSI stuff whose mysteries are resolved with feeble ease, while the character driven scenes don't actually have much character, or drive. For all the chatter about the importance of working as a team, Baywatch is really a bromance between Mitch and bad boy newcomer Matt Brody (Zac Efron) – no one else really gets much of a look in.

There is an almost endearing beauty and the geek flirtation between C.J. (Kelly Rohrbach) and 'tech guy' Ronnie (Jon Bass) – but they, like several others, flit in and out so much that you almost forget who they are.

Alexandra Daddario's (San Andreas) earnest Summer gets a slightly better deal – or at least more screen time, though she mostly just tags along with Mitch and Matt, offering wide eyed reaction shots at their exploits.

Daddario's presence alongside Johnson conjures the spirit of San Andreas (2015), a disaster flick defined by its inadvertent hilarity. Alas, Baywatch isn't a film to be laughed at, let alone with. Any flair for comic timing director Seth Gordon flexed on Horrible Bosses (2011) is absent without leave here.

It hardly helps that the script is awash with zingers with no zing and lines that aim for edgy but are just in poor taste: "You're like the Stephen Hawking of swimming, without the paralysis part." Similarly off colour is a strain of casual homophobia that reaches its nadir in a morgue set piece.

So, are there any signs of life here? Well, there is Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (The Get Down) as a cop whose exasperation at Mitch's antics is Baywatch's best – and only – running joke.

Unfunny, unthrilling and unsexy, Baywatch doesn't even reach the incredibly low bar set by the source material.

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