For a movie so desperately attempting to be meta and modern, the new Baywatch film manages to include every fault that its source material had, while still sinking into the great detriments contemporary blockbusters have been facing.
It’s 2017. The Los Angeles Bay is still a breeding ground for theft, drugs, and dangerous animals. The lifeguards are still doing the police department’s job, though the police aren’t taking it anymore. Our story revolves around Mitch (Dwayne Johnson), the universally-loved head lifeguard, and Matt (Zac Efron), an ex-Olympian forced for some reason to work at the Bay. Together, they uncover a world of real estate, politics, and drugs, which all somehow funnel into the hands of Leeds (Priyanka Chopra).
The general plot of this movie is extremely difficult to condense into anything other than “a remake of Baywatch” for two interconnected reasons; the first is that there simply is no protagonist in this story. Are we supposed to be rooting for Mitch throughout the film? What about Matt? If the answer is both of them, then what do we want out of the scenes where they are arguing with one another? That ties into the fact that even the Baywatch group has no overarching objective. We begin by watching Matt overcome the trials to become a lifeguard, and then we watch them try and defeat a Bond-esque villain. There are two films here, and the pacing suffers because of it, and I had no interest in the story because I had nothing to connect to.
There weren’t even worthwhile characters in Baywatch. Every lifeguard (save Mitch and Matt) are cardboard cutouts. Even the female lead of the original Baywatch, C.J. (played here by model Kelly Rohrbach), has little-to-no character. The supporting cast is uninteresting and unsatisfactory. The only time I was captivated by a non-lead character was when David Hasselhoff comes in for his obligatory cameo, and it was by far the best scene in the film—I can’t say the same for Pam Anderson’s cameo, however.
Not unlike the past films of director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses, Identity Thief), Baywatch is shot purposelessly and blandly. Everything is taken with naturalistic lighting and a shallow depth of field; even during the action sequences, the camera work feels uninspired. Mix that in with the all-around awful music choices—which rarely fit the tone of what’s actually happening onscreen—and you get a steaming pile of boredom.
There was no doubt that Baywatch was going to be terrible, but in seeing it, I hoped for at least some self-aware humor and campy action, just enough that I could feel as if I got something out of seeing it. Well, I didn’t. There is nothing of value in Baywatch. It’s an empty, meaningless, boring excuse for a film.