“Baywatch” wasn’t much of a TV show, even as a “classic” of its genre — jiggle vision.
Glug glug glug, jugs jugs jugs. Ugh.
But it surely deserved better than this, a leering, violent, coarse, deathly-dull and stupidly long send-up that doesn’t give Dwayne Johnson enough to remind us how funny he is or Zac Efron the gags to make us forget how unfunny he can be.
It’s a goof that isn’t goofy enough, a romp that doesn’t, and a tone-deaf riff on a show that was already a parody, in and of itself.
The “Bay” this time is Emerald Bay (actually, Miami), and Johnson is the new “Mitch,” legendary lifeguard with over 500 “saves” to his credit.
“Are you BATMAN?” a kid he’s saved wants to know.
“Sure kid. Just bigger. And browner.”
He banters with the surfers in surfer-speak, swats away shots among the beachside basketballers and annoys the lone cop (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) on his turf.
Lt. Mitch has three openings to fill on his lifeguard crew, people who have to be great athletes, cool under pressure, first aid experts, boat handlers/Jetski masters.
Summer (Alexandra Daddario) lands one spot. Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass in the Josh Gad/Jack Black role) lands another. Inexplicably.
And the third is earmarked for two-time Olympic gold-medalist and major league drunk and slacker screw-up Matt Brody (Efron), a guy who doesn’t take himself, the job or “the Bay” seriously.
He and Mitch will clash, Matt and Summer will flirt and hapless Hebrew School slob Ronnie will crush on CJ (Kelly Rohrbach), the blonde goddess of the crew.
“Why does it always seem like she’s running in slo-mo?”
“You see that TOO?”
The villain is a developer/drug smuggler named Victoria (Priyanka Chopra), sort of an Indian parody of an ’80s American TV bombshell. And the set-up is the lifeguards are onto her schemes, on the case.
“You’re NOT cops,” their boss lectures them. “We’re not COPS” Matt points out, between club nights and yacht parties.
Hilarity ensues. Not at all.
Because tone-deaf director Seth “Horrible Bosses/The Goldbergs” Gordon doesn’t take “The Bay” seriously. It starts with the unfortunate choice of going for an “R” rating, and spirals down the drain from there.
Imagine any of the show’s TV peers from that era — “Friends” or “Seinfeld” — laced with F-bombs, penis and dead-penis sight-gags. Dig if you will, the soundtrack, a grating blend of cloying/played for laughs Lionel Ritchie pop and seriously-out-of-place MF-riddled hip hop.
Johnson can be paired-up with most anybody to good effect, but he and Efron don’t click, despite the homoerotic (visual) references and Mitch’s running gag of not using Matt’s real name — “One Direction, Bieber, N*Sync, ‘High School Musical.'”
The women are just there for the swimsuits (as always), the “plot” isn’t really and the whole mashup just goes on and on and on.
Gordon can’t make the action convincing or, after a promising opening 20 minutes, any joke land. A telling moment — Mitch has been fired and is working in a cellphone store. Gordon gives a lingering close-up to the “son” of a customer. A producer’s kid? A special bar mitzvah gift to a relative?
Adding comic Hannibal Burress and giving him nothing funny to say or do is like sentencing him to sit on the Bill Cosby jury.
The dialogue is peppered with weak-villain zingers. Victoria takes compliments thusly.
“You have got taste. I really respect that.”
All they had to manage was a spoof of, as one character describes it, “a really entertaining (um, no) if far-fetched TV show.” But this spoof is too waterlogged to float.
And that can’t help Johnson’s announced plans to run for President, can it?
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity
Credits: Directed by Seth Gordon, script by Damian Shannon, Mark Swift. A Paramount release.
Running time: 1:56