Movie review: Big-screen 'Baywatch' a beach bummer

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jun 11 2017 09:01 AM

"Baywatch" was one of the most popular TV series back in the 1990s. Lead star David Hasselhoff, despite receiving a lot of beef about his acting style, is an international superstar. Several sexy female starlets donned those signature red bathing suits and became pinups in many bedrooms -- such as Erika Eleniak, Nicole Eggert, Alexandra Paul, Yasmine Bleeth, Carmen Electra and of course, Pamela Anderson.

I don't know why Hollywood can't leave these hit TV series well enough alone. I cannot honestly name a popular TV series that was actually done better when adapted for the big screen. A lot, if not all, of these feature film adaptation fell way short of expectations and in so doing, marred the fond memories audiences have of their favorite shows. "Baywatch" was by no means an award-winning series with awe-inspiring acting. However, it had its own distinct hook that I felt was not going to be easy to replicate.

Mitch Buchanon is a popular lifeguard team leader on the beach of Emerald Bay in Florida. One summer, during the tryouts for new lifeguards, Mitch was forced by his boss to take on Matt Brodie, a two-time Olympic gold medal-winner swimmer with a big ego and bad attitude. The two never see things eye to eye, constantly bickering about Mitch's unconventional training style. Mitch wants his team to get involved and actively aid in the investigation of crimes (from drugs to murder) on the beach, and Matt aggressively resists.

I thought the whole main cast, while all in great physical shape, was miscast. Dwayne Johnson does the leadership role well, but he seemed too heavily muscle-bound to swim as a lifeguard. Zac Efron does the cocky jerk role well, but he already looked too old to play an immature brat. Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach both looked great in their red Speedos as Summer Quinn and C.J. Parker respectively, but it felt like they should switch roles when it came to job seniority.

I am thinking that this film by Seth Gordon (of "Horrible Bosses" infamy) was probably made to be more of a mindless spoof than a tribute to an already campy original show. However, most of the humor, especially those by Efron (in a dress, in the morgue), were of the cringe and groan type that did not really fly for me. Even the not-so-surprise cameos of David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson were disappointing. The writers could have thought of better scenarios for them to appear.

Most of the laughs came in the beginning care of Jon Bass (as newbie lifeguard Ronnie) who had no shame getting himself in the most embarrassing comic situations in his adulation for CJ Parker. As can be expected, these gags were mostly in the raunchy "American Pie" variety. I did like some of those lower-key visual gags of the Rock using toys to fight or temping as cellphone salesman.

I have only seen a few episodes of the "Baywatch" TV series before, so I would not really know how they were able to expand the rather flimsy concept of sexy lifeguards to a decade worth of episodes. For this film, the whole script is not only a contrived stretch, but it is also a messy mishmash. Does a lifeguard really have jurisdiction to involve himself into criminal investigations independent of the police? This movie felt like cops from another TV show, like maybe the "21 Jump Street" guys, crossed over and went undercover on the beach as lifeguards.

Daddario and Rohrbach are definitely 10s, but the film as a whole can only muster a 2/10.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."