If there was any hope that Baywatch would be able to follow in the footsteps of the 21 Jump Street revival, those slim expectations are dashed pretty quickly. The TV series was a product of its time that needed a serious overhaul to give the movie version any chance of survival, with the end result left in serious need of mouth-to-mouth after a laborious two hour slog. Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron are the two big-hitters drafted in to pep up this pointless remake and neither are able to keep its head above water.
Efron and Johnson have played roles in the past that required them to act the fool and mock the ludicrous nature of their characters, and you presume that was in the brief job description here too. Efron plays Matt Brody, a disgraced Olympic gold-winning swimmer sent to the Baywatch beach as part of his probation. His introduction sees him pull up at the beachfront, immediately leering at the bikini-clad women as they stroll past. While Matt is characterised as an obnoxious fool, and this particular moment is waved off as some sort of 'ironic' joke, it's a problem that rears its head again and again, as director Seth Gordon shows an unwillingness to control the wandering male gaze that was so predominantly associated with the TV show.
Mitch (Johnson) is the hero lifeguard, taking an instant dislike to Matt's arrogant approach to the job. And so begins Matt's road to redemption, before the begrudging partnership blooms into a muscle bound bromance, taking on a local drug dealer and her faceless henchmen. Priyanka Chopra takes on the empty role of the villainous Victoria Leeds, appearing in a new figure-hugging dress for each scene, occasionally purring sinister lines of dialogue. Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach and Ilfenesh Hadera all play women straight out of the TV show, given little do except show their flesh, nod approvingly and swoon into their heroes' arms once the day has been won.
Humour would have been the only possible way this remake could have justified its existence and it fails miserably in that department. Tech-nerd Ronnie (Jon Bass) somehow claims a spot in the lifeguard team and amidst a sea of beach-bods, his podgy physique repeatedly becomes the go-to 'fat man' joke. Funny chubby man gets his erection stuck in a sunbed. Funny chubby man does a silly dance. Funny chubby man embarrasses himself in the mixed showers. And so on. Throw in a scrotum quip, breast jokes and Efron dressed in drag, and you get the picture. Humour without wit is one thing, but comedy without humour is a waste of everyone’s time.
In further moments of hilarity, Hasselhoff makes an appearance to give Mitch a pep talk and Pamela Anderson is there to do, erm, something, just before the credits launch into further flat, eye-rolling outtakes. When even unintended slip-ups and bloopers fail to raise a smile, it's time to quit in the hope that no one is bothered enough to give a damn. One look at the list of writers involved hardly reveals an illustrious comedic history and adding director Seth Gordon to that roll call adds little weight. And no, Horrible Bosses definitely does not count.
As is the case in so many of his vehicles, Dwayne Johnson stands out as one of the few positives, able to charm the audience with a flash of his smile and some WWE-honed comic timing. He's deserving of better material, and it can surely only be a matter of time before he heads off to carry a tent pole movie or two. As for this release, the box office will of course dictate if it can ride the critical wave or be left to sink without a trace. You may be sceptical about taking the time out to see this incarnation of Baywatch, but if you aren’t someone who usually listens to your instinct, now is the perfect moment to change the habit of a lifetime.