Of Baywatch’s massive estimated budget of $90 million – which tiptoes the fine line between impressive and of absolute excess – it’s easy to imagine a fair proportion of it going on oil in order to maintain that glistening grotesqueness appropriated by The Rock. If Orson Welles struggled with shooting in a hall of mirrors in The Lady From Shanghai, lord knows the innate trials and tribulations of shooting against Johnson.
Then there’s Zac Efron, trying his very hardest to shrug off the mantle of Disney sweetheart by diving headfirst into a vat of self-tanning solution and industrial strength oil, in the process drowning Troy Bolton. He could have screamed, “f**k the status quo”, with more subtlety.
To describe it as meat-headed may be too kind: it’s vacuous, all bulbous muscular veins, pounding vodka Red Bulls whilst ogling at every pair of breasts that the viewer can’t but look cross-eyed. It’s Entourage for those unable to comprehend the momentary nuance of Turtle’s erection through his basketball shorts. It’s a Pirelli calendar shot by mechanics who lick their lips at page 3 girls and hang them in their office as if a trophy.
Plotting is pointless and in abundance. Dwayne Johnson, himself a decent surrogate for Hasselhoff, is Mitch Buchannon, head of Baywatch and boss to CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach) and Steph Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera), who are forced to work with new recruit Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a disgraced gold medal winning Olympian.
Open trials give way to the addition of Alexandra Daddario and Josh Gad/Dan Fogler/Jonah Hill proxy Jon Bass. Together they must stop malicious drug smuggler Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra, so dull in her role she seems as if ready to nap) from being a malicious drug smuggler.
The film exists as a series of disjointed, disconnected vignettes with absolute no cohesion. Set piece follows set piece, each louder and greasier than the last. There’s a real feeling of utter dismay, as if footage was handed to the editors with no script, no real plan, no formula, before being told they had a week to hand it in or be stuck in a purgatory consisting solely of having to watch Jon Bass get his erection stuck in a sun bed.
It’s strange then that it’s rather well performed. Johnson does as Johnson does whilst Efron somehow mines Brody for an ounce of sympathy. He’s a strong performer, an all-rounder, here’s hoping Baywatch is simply him getting the last ounce of frat-boy nastiness out of his system. Jon Bass, likable, is given a fairly unforgiving role as the galumphing ‘fat one’, his one character trait being his ‘monster Johnson’, a joke that runs all two hours.
Model Rohrbach tries her hardest to amplify Parker from being simply slow-motion eye candy, and she almost succeeds. In a film dominated by a pair of sentient pectorals, she almost stands out.
At 116 minutes, it’s an exercise in audience cruelty, the cinema evolving into a torture chamber akin to A Clockwork Orange, placating world suffering for douchebags pounding shots and screaming panic. There are jokes, although to pluralise joke there maybe gives the film too much credit. The biggest laugh exists as part of the title sequence, then it’s a rare momentary chuckle. Usually consisting of Johnson ribbing Efron for his boyband aesthetic, which starts funny but fast becomes tired.
Baywatch is a further unwarranted, unwanted lesson in self-satisfying nostalgia. It’s a two-hour dick joke, an action comedy neither entertaining nor funny, only very, very dull. It’s a semi-erect, ready lubed, leering frat boy.