28 May 2017 | jon.h.ochiai
Beauty doesn't conquer Stupid
In "Baywatch" beauty doesn't conquer stupid. It ends up a tie at best, on points. People Magazine's 2017 Sexiest Man Alive Dwayne Johnson, "The Rock", stars as iconic lifeguard Mitch Buchannon in Director Seth Gordon's "Baywatch"—his recreation and homage to the worldwide TV syndication phenom. All the lifeguards, sans one by narrative, are stunningly beautiful. In reassuring self-mockery Gordon vividly recreates the classic "slow-mo" running shots of his stars in homage to the original series. In the introductory beach sequence, wannabe life guard Ronnie, played by charming soft-bodied geek Jon Bass, gazes longingly at the crush of his life C.J. Parker, played by beautiful, sweet former Sports Illustrated Model Kelly Rohrbach, as she runs emerging from the ocean.
It's a shame on several levels, because the cast like Rohrbach and Johnson are amazingly beautiful, and they are also charismatic, funny, and charming. Unfortunately, those attributes are distinctly lacking in Damian Shannon and Mark Swift's dreadfully erratic screenplay. A real embarrassment.
Along with Rohrbach and The Rock, Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario bring their comically charming A-games. Efron is totally jacked; his body is ripped beyond, giving even The Rock competition. Efron plays disgraced 2-time Olympic swimming Gold Medalist bad-boy Matt Brody, a thinly veiled caricature of Ryan Lochte. Except here, Efron infuses more heart and character to bear as Brody. Daddario plays Summer, the young marine biologist whose dream is being the lifeguard who saves others. Efron's Brody quickly falls for Summer upon their meeting at Baywatch tryouts. Daddario endures the movie's blatant boob punch line, brilliantly understating her smarts, and radiance.
Well, nuance is not inherent to "Baywatch" given the campy source material of the TV series. However, the narrative tonal currents make your headache. At the lifeguard tryouts Johnson's Mitch iterates that at Baywatch, "We save lives." In the awesome opening scene Mitch courageously saves an unconscious surfer from certain death. Later Mitch and Brody dramatically save the drowning Mother and her two young children near the pier. Offset this with Director Gordon numerous penis jokes, and incoherent story-line, and you'll both laugh and scratch your head. Farce and self-mockery don't mix, mainly because they are redundant. "Baywatch" is stupid, funny. More often it is stupid, stupid. There is one sequence where Johnson fights the bad guy with baby toys. Yeah. The Rock is the coolest action star, so this makes absolutely no sense.
Johnson is at his movie star best as Mitch—charming, bright, and swag. He and Efron have the very cool screen partnership and bromance. When Efron's Brody arrives at Baywatch he expects his entitled pass to lifeguard, because of his Olympic Gold. Mitch and second-in-command Stephanie played by gorgeous and under leveraged Ilfenesh Hadera, tell him, "We don't give a f***!" Brody predictably lets Mitch down. In the nice scene Mitch tells Brody, "I watched you win your 2 gold medals in the Olympics. It was amazing
" But Brody did that alone. He is part of a team now. He enlightens Brody that he is a selfish jerk. Mitch sees greatness in Brody; he needs to grow up.
Shannon and Swift's script fails miserably, instead opting for the ridiculous story-line about evil femme fatale Victoria, played by exasperating Priyanka Chopra, and her drug trafficking scheme of the meth-like designer drug in hopes of owning all real estate in Emerald Bay. However, not at all threatening, Victoria lands as extremely annoying, more the effect of the writing. Instead of more charm of the whimsical Mitch-Brody bromance, we get stupid morgue jokes that extend way too long. In the inadvertent signature moment Brody offers his hysterical misinterpretation of computer networks while Ronnie attempts to hack into the villain's secure server. Ronnie tells Brody, "It's a good thing you're pretty." Pretty alone isn't enough to save "Baywatch".
There is the spectacular montage as the Baywatch lifeguards all run in classic slow-mo on the beach. Seeing those perfectly sculpted bodies in red Speedos is stunning and the sentimental homage. The actors in "Baywatch" are both beautiful and gifted. It's a shame that "Baywatch" didn't save them as well.