BAYWATCH

Remember the 21 Jump Street film and how it had absolutely no right to be as good as it was? I do, because it’s probably my favorite comedy of the decade. What started off as an embarrassing cash grab attempt turned out to be a clever, biting satire on action/buddy comedy tropes and of the desperate Hollywood system itself. It also had a touching story about brotherhood, loyalty, and learning to fully embrace yourself. It, and it’s fantastic sequel 22 Jump Street, are comedies that work on pretty much every level. Unfortunately, other Hollywood execs saw the big numbers and decided to follow suit, dredging up whatever television property they could find to adapt for the modern age. It’s not unknown for Hollywood to follow popular new trends, but they often tend to miss the point of what actually made those films good in the first place.

In Emerald Bay, Florida bay, Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) leads an elite team of lifeguards called Baywatch. Mitch takes his job as the head lifeguard very seriously, running the beach smoothly until rambunctious new recruit Matt Brody (Zac Efron) rides into town. Matt tries to make friends with Mitch and the other lifeguards, all while a mysterious new drug and dead bodies start washing ashore. Is this a job for the police, or for Baywatch?

I don’t mind crude humor. It’s really like any other type of humor, in that it’s all about how you utilize it. Crude humor can sometimes appear lazy, but there can be a subtext to it, or some sort of extra element to make it clever. A lot of the humor in this relies on banter consisting of characters saying crass dialogue. I do like crude, banter humor, but it should have a point past that, such as how the Jump Street films used all of those scenes to develop characters and further the plot. Here, we get people getting their genitals stuck in painful situations. The writers try to be clever and do the whole satirical angle, with an exaggerated comedic style and tone, but they never fully commit to it.

It’s about as lazy as it gets. Even the plot is unsurprisingly half-baked, with a generic drug/murder plot, all with a foreign villain who makes socially political statements at any moment she can. There are brief moments of the filmmakers actually having a story and some character, but they’re hardly developed enough to offer any sort of satisfying payoff. When I wasn’t occasionally laughing, I was just bored. I didn’t care about any of the characters, their lame predicaments, or about what would happen to them. Not only is it not funny, worst of all, it’s boring.

Pretty much nobody seemed like they cared. Even the always charismatic Dwayne Johnson feels like he’s just going through the motions here. The only person who seemed to really care, and made me laugh the most, was Zac Efron. He has a very charming personality, but also has a lot of range and depth. He goes from comedy to drama pretty well and genuinely adds to his thinly written characters. He deserves to be doing better things, just like his co-star Alexandra Daddario. Hell, all of the actors in this deserve better than riding jet skis in front of horribly chroma keyed environments.

Baywatch is half generic raunchy comedy, and half pathetic attempt by Hollywood to dig up any property they can to reap any possibly dollar from it. Sometimes, the studios strike gold and get talented filmmakers, such as Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the directors of the Jump Street films. I hate to keep making comparisons, but it was almost impossible for me to not think of the Jump Street films while watching Baywatch. It just shows that even if the intentions behind the project are cynical, talented filmmakers with a heart and desire to tell an engaging story can make it succeed. That’s not always the case, though. Baywatch has an attractive and charismatic cast, but nobody looks like they’re having any fun. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re at the beach, right?

3.5/10

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