Baywatch (2017) Review
Baywatch is directed by Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses, Identity Thief) and stars Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas, Fast & Furious), Zac Efron (Bad Neighbours, 17 Again) and Alexandra Daddario (San Andreas, Percy Jackson). "Devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchanan butts heads with a brash new recruit. Together, they uncover a local criminal plot that threatens the future of the Bay". The next film to ride on the nostalgia wave is Baywatch - will it fall or rise?
Baywatch is a really solid film that pretty much met my expectations. It's 22 Jump Street meets Furious 7 - the premises and comedy of the Jump Street films meets the action (less OTT) and style of the more recent Fast and Furious movies. I enjoyed Baywatch - another 2017 release that does not disappoint. The film is by no means perfect - I think it could have done with some bigger laughs that are more memorable that we hadn't already seen in the trailers and I think some more work could have been done on the characters and fleshing them out a little. All-in-all though, this is a solid, summer flick that is sure to be a hit with audiences - it just has that likability factor!
Let's begin with the story - this could essentially be a spinoff 21 Jump Street film and if it was made by the same studio (unfortunately it isn't), I could easily see them making that happen and tying them together. The set up is that there is a drug outbreak on the beach that Baywatch manages and they are trying to find and stop the source. However, one mistake the film makes straight away is by not keeping the source a mystery - I was hoping the whole time that Victoria Leeds (played by Priyanka Chopra) was going to be a huge misdirect that a twist would occur in the final act revealing the true source. However, that wasn't the case. Leeds is clearly the villain from the very beginning so it is just a matter of finding a way to catch and stop her. This did take away some excitement as it was clear and predictable that they were eventually going to catch her. I feel like a little more time could have been spent setting up the drug outbreak as well - showing the repercussions or effects it has had rather than Mitch (Johnson) just finding some on the beach. What I liked though is that we didn't get thrown straight into this plot and that the film did spend some time setting up the organisation and the characters - even though, they didn't get much development, it was fun to see them try-out to make the team. Character development is another problem the film has - admittedly, I think if every character was developed, it would have taken up too much time and slowed the film down but I think it would have been nicer to flesh them out a little more - especially the female characters as poor Alexandra Daddario ended up playing a pretty basic female character who just tags along with the guys. Brody (Efron) had a nice character arc which involved being apart of a team and although at first it seemed like he didn't earn that arc, the film does eventually take the time on this character in particular. Despite all of this, I did enjoy the story of Baywatch - it's worked well for similar films and it worked well again here.
I was most impressed by the action sequences in the film - the trailers did not do the action sequences justice at all as they all seemed very green-screen and artificial (they were clearly still working on the scenes at that time). Every single rescue scene was entertaining and thrilling and they looked good. I also liked how the team actually worked as a team and each took different roles - that was a problem I had with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 - we are told they are a team but they never actually work together. The on-foot fight scenes were also thoroughly entertaining - the one that occurs in the child's bedroom utilises all of the objects that would be typically found in that location as well as being funny. The finale is also pretty good - there is a moment of tension when Brody gets locked in the cage and thrown into the water - it is literally an impossible situation to get out of! Leeds also goes out with a boom. As always, Johnson seems superhuman but I think the film played on that well - especially when Efron shows off how fit he is and then Johnson makes him seem so weak. Even though they're not a huge part of the film, every action sequence is a guaranteed fun and entertaining moment. Even though their characters weren't thoroughly developed, all of the female members of the team never seemed inferior to their male counterparts - they were as intelligent, determined and strong (well maybe not as strong as The Rock) as their male counterparts.
Comedies have to be funny and Baywatch is, but it's just not as funny as it could have been. I laughed at the trailers and I laughed again at those moments in the film. There are plenty of jokes still left on the table but I don't think any of them are as big or as memorable as the ones we had already seen. For example, one of the funniest parts of Baywatch involves the morgue scene but we already saw that in a trailer! I did laugh plenty of times but I was just waiting for that one, big, belly laugh to come and it never came. However, if your sense of humour is all about crude jokes with plenty of sexual references, then I'm sure you will find Baywatch hilarious!- just like many of the audience members in the screening did. There are masses of social references in Baywatch which I fear may make the film date quite easily. However, I did love it when Mitch referred to Brody as High School Musical - a clever joke. I wish Baywatch had more clever comedic moments and didn't just rely on sex jokes. The film did make some funny social commentary on lad culture - Brody is your typical tool and he portrays everything of a 2017 tool. The jokes made about sending nudes on snapchat were quite funny. I also feared that the male gaze theory was going to apply here and it does but I think the film handles it in the best possible way - they pick fun whenever a male stares or draws attention to a females body and they also actually have it be a female character looking through binoculars at another female running slow motion. Of course there's going to be bikinis and shirtless men in this film - it's Baywatch after all. I think the film is especially going to appeal to all those fitness addicts out there - audiences will admire their perfect bodies and enjoy the fitness aspects of the film.
The performances from everyone were all strong - I would actually go as far as saying this is my favourite performance from Dwayne Johnson yet. I really think he just fits in with the Baywatch setting - he doesn't tame down is bravado and is still pretty cheesy but it just works here, without the occasional cringe that he usually causes in most of his films. Zac Efron didn't really get his chance to shine until the second half of the film - the first half, he was very unlikeable but I warmed towards him in the second half. I hope Efron's star continues to rise because he really does have versatility. Alexandra Daddario doesn't have too much to do but does well with what she is given. I was also impressed by Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass and Ilfenesh Hadera who are all relatively new to Hollywood but were all good. Finally, the villain - Priyanka Chopra. I think Chopra did a good job but I never truly sensed pure evil. She just seemed like a money craving, rich b*tch. As a whole the team all had good chemistry with one another and I thought all of the coupling (I wish they didn't all have to fall in love!) were well suited and worked well together. The cameos from David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson were nice touches - even though Anderson's is literally shoehorned on at the end.
The style of Baywatch is very similar to the Fast & Furious films, specifically Furious 7. The film really utilises music with many of the music choices perfectly suiting the scene on-screen. The action sequences were also just as fun as those you would see in a Fast & Furious film but just tamed down a little. I think this is going to help Baywatch in becoming a huge hit this summer. Not only does the film have major summery vibes but it's light-hearted, fun and a great excuse to go to the cinema. This is one of those films that is flawed but just so likeable and enjoyable to watch. I love the sound of a sequel to this film so I just hope it is as successful as I believe it will be.
Baywatch doesn't disappoint - it's fun, hot and consistently entertaining - there isn't a dull moment. Like most comedies - the film lacks character development and a truly fleshed out story and it may give away it's biggest laughs in the marketing. However, there are still plenty of smaller laughs left on the table. Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron are fantastic and work well together and the rest of the cast do a really nice job too. The premises and plot are easy to follow and it's simply enjoyable to watch - especially those strong action sequences! Baywatch is going to be hot this summer and I would definitely recommend you ride this wave!