Let’s face it: The Rock is awesome. And pretty much everything he does is awesome, good or bad. So when it was announced that he was doing the Baywatch movie based on the television show which ran eleven seasons from 1989-2001, and it was getting this 21 Jump Street movie treatment, where they poke fun at it while actually making a movie about it, I was sold. What could have been really terrible ended up being a hilarious and raunchy movie that was very entertaining.
Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is the gung-ho leader of the elite Baywatch lifeguard squad. He clashes with new recruit Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a disgraced Olympic Swimmer brought in as the new face of the organization. But when drugs and dead bodies begin washing up on shore the two must put aside their personal differences and work with their team to stop a criminal mastermind’s drug trafficking and save their beach.
If this was a standard TV-show-to-movie adaption this movie would have been dreadful, but giving it the 21 Jump Street, Brady Bunch Movie treatment is what makes this movie really fun. This is a show with a premise that needs to be poked fun at. The show was so stupid for the day, but also a worldwide phenomenon. So allowing the filmmakers to have fun is how this is a win. Then adding a great cast who also “get” the movie is another smart decision.
Johnson has been getting increasingly better with every project he does. He has managed to have a nice acting career with action and comedy. I believe he knows where is strengths are. With that, he delivers in this movie. He comes in like a wreaking ball and destroys everyone in his wake with his humor, timing and heart. He plays the whole movie completely straight faced and never once do you roll your eyes at how stupid things get. And they get stupid, but in the best way possible. The Rock gets what this movie is and how to play in the world that is set up.
Efron also gets the movie. He has a pretty solid understanding of comic timing. His character is a washed up Olympic pretty boy and he does the character justice by playing to his strengths and not trying to make this anything other than a comedy. He and Johnson together were pretty amazing to watch. They have natural chemistry that really makes them charismatic. I’d watch more of these two doing pretty much anything in a comedic situation.
The rest of the cast is just as good: Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass, Ilfenesh Hadera, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Priyanka Chopra. They all understand what the movie is and how to act around the ridiculous setting they find themselves in. Daddario has nice moments with Efron that are really funny. The odd love story with Bass and Rohrbach is ludicrous and gives way to some of the best physical jokes in the movie. And any time Abdul-Mateen is on screen as the police officer it’s comedy gold. Him trying to make The Rock understand why he’s not a real cop is worth the whole picture at times.
The beach scenes are filmed beautifully and done in a certain action dramatic style that adds humor to each lifeguard-save or action beat. It’s being filmed like this is a serious drama. Which it clearly is not. So the visual gags alone are amazing to watch. Any time Johnson pulls someone to safety from the surf it’s slowed down. Not unlike when the team runs on the beach together, the joke being from the show’s opening back in the day. They even go so far as to make slow motion jokes in dialogue about certain characters.
The plot is very 1980’s basic: evil drug lady being bad trying to take over the beach for her own personal evil needs. Being based on the show, this is a perfect plot. It’s not like they decided to go camping, find a treasure map and seek out lost gold. (Plot from a real episode of the show). (Have to keep something for the sequel.) So with that in mind, if you go in knowing this isn’t serious a good time can be had.
This was very entertaining. Very raunchy and very funny. If you have a sick sense of humor and like Baywatch then this movie is for you. They keep the basic themes of the show, while adding new ones and poking fun at it a way that is pure love and enjoyment. Plus, it’s The Rock running around saving people. What else would you need?