Baywatch is absurd. It’s dumb and self-referential and full of grabs at the lowest hanging fruit possible. But it also has The Rock throwing zingers around and doing what he does best, so when everything nets out, it’s not half bad. This update of the sun-drenched, scantly clad television staple never needed to happen. But now it has, for better or worse. This version of Baywatch is self-aware, rated R and playing its stars for laughs. Mostly, it’s stupid, but occasionally gloriously so.
I’m just young enough that I never watched the original iteration, but from what I gleaned watching this version, everything about the original has been exaggerated here. Dwayne Johnson stars as Lt. Mitch Buchannon, an alarmingly dedicated member of Baywatch and all-around good guy. He’s proud of his job and his team and his town. So, when Matt Brody (one extremely jacked Zac Efron) turns up and demands a spot on the team, Mitch has problems. Brody is basically Ryan Lochte — he’s arrogant, a waste of talent and he’s coming off a humiliating display at the Rio Olympics.
But, despite Mitch’s protestations, a PR-obsessed boss decides it’s a good idea. So the kid with the toxic attitude joins the rest of the wholesome, extraordinarily skilled and kind team. There’s CJ (Kelly Rohrbach), Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera) and fellow new recruits Summer (Alexandra Daddario), and surprise average guy choice (Ronnie Greenbaum).
The gang gets mixed up in the nefarious plans of the new baddie on the block, Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), and attempts at hilarity ensue. Many of these fall flat — looking at you penis lodged in the beach chair. But more often than you might think, the Rock’s overwhelmingly infectious joy and earnest approach to this script win out. Apart from the human money press known as the Rock, the greatest strength of Baywatch is that the stupidity feels intentional. So, as a viewer, you don’t know what was architected to make you groan, and what falls short.
All of it is probably too much, and while I may never watch Baywatch again, I had fun. And I wouldn’t hesitate to investigate the probably inevitable sequel, if only for the chance to watch The Rock unironically call Zac Efron — who is quite a generous comedic actor — “High School Musical” one more time. Actually, can I just have two hours of those two doing banter and nothing else?