This is not your older brother’s Baywatch. That Baywatch, which your older brother watched because it was full of sexy girls in bathing suits, was a long running (242 episodes from 1989-2001) TV series. It was a drama involving lifeguards protecting the swimmers of the LA County Beaches.
The new Baywatch still has a dramatic premise, but it is crammed with over-the-top humor and action. It is funny from the opening titles through the outtakes at the end. Oh, and it still has sexy girls in bathing suits.
The Old Baywatch
I watched a couple episodes of the old series in preparation for viewing the new film. The episodes began with a teaser, setting up a problem, much like a police procedural. They were heavy into drama and the social lives of the young lifeguards, bordering on soap opera.
The young lifeguards included Pamela Anderson (Home Improvement, Scary Movie 3), Gregory Alan Williams (Terminator: Genesis, Remember the Titans), and Yasmine Bleeth (Ryan’s Hope, Nash Bridges). Other celebrities who graced the Baywatch beach included Angie Harmon (Rizzoli & Isles, Law and Order), Carmen Electra (Scary Movie, Meet the Spartans), and Jason Momoa (Stargate: Atlantis, Game of Thrones).
The popularity of the series spawned a spin-off and several made-for-TV movies although the series also makes it onto several critics lists of all-time worst TV series. The new movie will not make anyone’s worst list.
The New Baywatch
Baywatch stars Dwayne Johnson in the role of Mitch Buchannon, made famous on TV by David Hasselhoff. Buchannon must train a new lifeguard, played by Zac Efron, in the rules of the beach while saving the bay from a criminal conspiracy. The beach is no longer in LA, but somehow has moved to Florida.
Efron’s character, Matt, is a Gold Medal winning Olympic swimmer who has fallen on hard times because he was not a team player. Matt’s struggle to overcome his self-centered attitude, and how he gets entwined with the bad guys, pushes the plot forward. A second hilarious character arc is played out by John Bass’ character, Ronnie, a computer nerd. Will Ronnie get the girl? You’ll have to watch to find out.
In classic Baywatch fashion, Mitch, Matt and Ronnie are, of course, joined by a team of attractive lady lifeguards, Alexandra Daddario, Ilfenesh Hadera, and Kelly Rohrbach. The trouble maker for the bay is Victoria Leeds, played by another curvaceous actress, Priyanka Chopra (Quantico).
The Humor and the Drama
Baywatch strikes just the right balance between self-effacing, satirical humor, such as one of the characters asking, “Why does she always look like she’s running in slow motion,” and maintaining believability so that you will care about the characters when they are in trouble.
The trouble they get into involves murders, thugs, drowning, corruption, burning ships, helicopters, fireworks and computer hacking. The special effects teams got a workout.
Credit for striking this perfect balance should go to Director Seth Gordon who proved his comedy chops with Horrible Bosses and The Goldbergs. If you liked Horrible Bosses, you’ll be adding Baywatch to your favorites list.
Even the villain gets some funny lines. When confronted by Buchannon with her wrongdoing, Leeds observes, “Well, I’m not a Bond villain…yet.” She comes close.
The music is a big part of the film and not in the traditional way. There is exciting background music for all the action, but, the music also adds to the humor. The range of genres goes from The Beach Boys to The BeeGees to rap.
Some of the funniest moments involved two Baywatch TV veterans. The audience I watched the film with hooted with joy when David Hasselhoff and Pamala Anderson appeared in their cameo roles.
Some of the humor is crude, involving penises and tons of foul language. I don’t generally like that, but they made me laugh. Other humorous bits are not politically correct, even involving race. Do not take the kids. Baywatch is rated ‘R’ for language, crude sexual humor and nudity. At almost two hours in length, it pushed the time limit for a comedy, but there is nothing I would cut. Baywatch opens May 25. The trailer is linked below.
Want to discuss the new Baywatch? Use the hashtag #BeBaywatch.
Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures.