Five men wearing ribbed tank tops and sun-damaged Billabong shorts sit around a conference table. They're drinking room temperature Bud Lights, cracked using the bottle openers lodged in the soles of their flip-flops. A plucky dolphin wearing a human disguise sits at the table. His true identity is never discovered. Both man and dolphin shout story ideas and one-liners at a very tired intern, who types the gibberish haphazardly into a Word document. The result is Baywatch.
Okay, that's not how it happened, but it very well could have been.
Directed by Seth Gordon, Baywatch, a summer blockbuster based very loosely on the '90s television series of the same name, dove into theaters May 25 and has grossed $68 million worldwide.
The film takes place in Emerald Bay, Florida, a beautiful beach town populated entirely by residents who have no idea how to swim. These sunscreen-covered simpletons readily fling their weak bodies into the sea, often crashing their skulls into the ample jagged rocks lining the shore. But have no fear! The obscenely ripped and all-powerful God of The Beach Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) and his scantily clad lifeguard patrol are always ready to save the day.
But not everything is as sunny as it seems in Beachville, USA. Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), a villainous businesswoman, has been running a floating drug cartel, threatening the safety of the whole bay. And if that wasn't problem enough, the Baywatch patrol is in the middle of training new recruits, one of whom is Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a disgraced former Olympic swimmer and cocky party boy who's now forced to do community service.
There are other characters, I guess. Most of them are just human cartoons. The cartooniest of them all is Ronnie (Jon Bass), a pudgy geek who, though a computer genius, has weaseled his way into the elite Baywatch squad under the guise of having a lot of "heart." In reality, he's just there to ogle boobs. At one point, he gets his penis stuck between the boards of a beach chair. He sings badly in the shower. He dances poorly. You're forced to see his butt. For a character who's supposed to serve as comic relief, he made me very anxious.
But don't worry; strong, talented women populate the majority of the Baywatch patrol, because ladies can be lifeguards, too! In exchange for being in the Baywatch majority, the female characters give up any semblance of a personality, their brainpower likely devoted entirely to trying not to think about how deep their bathing suits are riding into their butt cracks. The suits also zip up the front, a disappointingly impractical way of showing off boobs. How can these lifeguards possibly dive into action while wearing a suit that's already unzipping? I know Baywatch is really just a vehicle for bouncing busts; I'm just saying a simple V-necked top could show just as much boob and still maintain some foothold in reality.
It's fine, though, because the men are also sexualized! Sort of! I mean, c'mon, we get to see Zac Efron shirtless! Plus, The Rock is a guy people seem to be attracted to, though the dad-centric water shoes he wears throughout the film diminish a lot of his sex appeal. Which brings me to my most pressing question: How ugly are The Rock's feet to merit such a costume decision?
Baywatch has a script that's trying too hard to be ironic and self-aware, landing itself in a strange no man's land of beach puns and simple dialogue. It technically passes the Bechdel test, but it's in the kind of class where passing is a D-minus.
There are a few fun action scenes, and expected amounts of ocean spectacle, but for a big summer flick, it never feels satisfying. Like an inflatable slip-and-slide, Baywatch offers some brief moments of summer fun that just aren't worth the setup and the price.