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Review: Baywatch – “Its opening offers plenty of promise”

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If you’re of the age of around 30 then you’ll know exactly what 90s TV phenomenon Baywatch is all about.

Even if you aren’t and you don’t, you must at least be aware of how it made cultural icons of actors such as David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson.

On the surface, the appeal of a Baywatch movie is widespread, not least because the biggest acting name in the world right now, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is fronting this adaptation. And I use the tern adaptation loosely based around the hit show while bringing the concept into a somewhat tongue-in-cheek 21st century version.

Its opening offers plenty of promise, setting a strong tone for satire that serves as homage to the rapturous television exploits of Mitch Buchanan and his gang of fearless lifeguards-cum-private investigators. But the strength (and belly laugh) of its start is its high point of parody.

Sadly, its opening is a ruse. The tone thereafter gradually switches until we’re at a polar opposite whereby Team Baywatch are hunting down murderous villains and evil businesswomen hell-bent on owning the beach and all of its property around it.

Suffice to say the plot is ludicrous. If only it had maintained its laugh out loud sensibility that began in the vein of many other attempts at satire, then it may have worked. This could have been the beach version of 21 Jump Street, but instead it falls way short of the mark.

As is, Baywatch doesn’t manage to nail its tone at any given point. Instead we see a confused narrative that sways from genuinely funny, to pastiche, to serious, all-out crime-action. And that doesn’t sit right. As a result, the script it all over the place and would’ve benefited from sticking to a genre rather than heavy-handedly trying to throw too many together.

Regardless, the film does have some high points: notably the Zac Efron-Dwayne Johnson pairing. Despite the latter being able to sell a movie on his own broad, rippling shoulders or by a simply Instagram post, Efron’s addition as a brain-dead jock adds a swirling dynamic for Johnson to feed off. The jokes come thick and fast, with a fairly even ratio of hit and miss.

Kelly Rohrbach, Alexandra Daddario, Ilfenseh Hadera, and Jon Bass make up the supporting cast, but don’t have a lot to offer in terms of character development or as comedy relief, leaving centre stage to its A-listers.

That said, Baywatch is a movie people will flock to. A summertime action-comedy starring The Rock, surrounded by half-naked, beautiful co-stars should see it do sufficient box office business. Whether it’ll impress new audiences and those old enough to reminisce over the nostalgia of the famed TV show is another matter entirely.

Baywatch opens in the US on 25th May and in the UK on 29th May 2017.

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