I must confess that I’m not someone who has any fondness or recognition of Baywatch, I’m certainly not what you would assume to be the target audience of this film. And honestly, it is something of a strange fit upon hearing the premise: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Zac Efron teaming up to save the beach from a wave of crime. It’s not something that should work, and yet against all odds it really, really does. The plot of the movie hews fairly close to what any layman would recognize about Baywatch, though it takes the form of a buddy cop film for a good chunk of it, with Zac Efron as Matt Brody and The Rock as Mitch Buchannon filling the slots of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, respectively, to use a Lethal Weapon analogy. Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass, and Ilfenesh Hadera round out the rest of the ensemble, but those first two are the keys to the entire movie.
It’s not said often enough, but The Rock has really great comedic timing, and it’s put to great use in this movie in his role as Mitch, which leads to an abundance of riches with his back and forth with Zach Efron’s character Matt Brody. The plot of Baywatch is fairly loose, but the script by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift does allow for a great deal of building upon such a simple concept, and it doesn’t hesitate to be playful with it. Seth Gordon’s directing is also a boon for this movie allowing it to intersect between being a firm action movie and a comedy.
The movie also does a great job in being able to navigate between the demands of being a remake and a quasi-sequel. While there’s enough carrots left for classic Baywatch fans to feel at home, it first and foremost does its service as a brand new movie. Yes, remakes are a dime a dozen nowadays, but this is one of those few cases where there’s a very clear idea of what you’re aiming for. It also, thankfully, undercuts a lot of what could be uncomfortable bro-y humor. Zac Efron is fair game as the team butt monkey for this movie and he gets a chance to use his comedic chops here as the Rock does.
Overall the summer season is off to a great start with Baywatch. You’re getting one of the most distinctive offerings of the summer here, it’s exactly what it says on the tin: it’s all about the bay, and they make you fall in love with it. This is one of those few times I’m all about a sequel for a movie and with any luck it’ll have the same energy as this one.
4 Slow Runs out of 5
With thanks to the City Vault for making this review possible.