The weirdest critique that I’ve seen of the Baywatch movie so far came from AV Club, who complained that it “is even emptier than its source material”. Well, yeah. It’s a movie about lifeguards who try to solve a crime based on a show that’s mainly known for shots of swimming costume-clad women running down a beach in slow motion. What exactly is it that you were expecting?
Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Zac Efron, this reboot of the legendary Pamela Anderson/David Hasselhoff television show actually looks to be a surprisingly good specimen of its genre… if you like that over-the-top, cringe-inducing, buddy comedy kind of thing. Baywatch follows devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Johnson) as he butts heads with a brash new recruit (Efron). Together, they uncover a local criminal plot that threatens the future of the Bay.
As noted by The Guardian, the best way to stage a movie-based comeback for this kind of eighties/nineties show is to indulge in a heavy amount of self-satire as with the likes of Starsky and Hutch, which was excellent, and The Dukes of Hazzard, which was… okay. That doesn’t appear to be happening here.
The only franchise that has so far managed to pull off a movie reboot without poking fun at itself is The A-Team, who managed, in my opinion, to create a fast-paced, clever action movie that was far superior to its source material (which was already substantially better than Baywatch anyway). The age old question about reboots and remakes seems to apply here – why? No one really cares about Baywatch anymore. Let’s face it, this is little more than a Dwayne Johnson vehicle, who could do much better.
If you’re not looking for substance or plots that make a lot of sense, then Baywatch looks to be a fun piece of entertainment, albeit with a similar tendency to over-sexualize women as the original show. It’s saving grace is that it does the same with the men and the cinematography looks absolutely gorgeous – Florida (not California this time around) has never looked so good.
The trailer suggests that Dwyane Johnson will make a fine David Hasselhoff stand-in – not that those are particularly difficult shoes to fill. It’s likely that he will deliver a solid, comic performance but Zac Efron will likely be the one to watch here as when he gets it right, he gets it very right. But when he gets it wrong, he often does so catastrophically badly.