BY ROGER THOMAS
I remember watching “Baywatch,” the television show years ago. The series actually ran for twelve years, spanning the gap between 1989 and 2001. I had no idea it lasted that long. It was one of those shows that you stopped on when you were flipping channels. I doubt many people recorded the series, or actually looked forward to it. One just happened upon it, and stayed because the cast was filled with pretty people in simple plots.
The new film, by the same name, in some ways parallels the series. The main characters are lifeguards. Most of the action happens on the beach. Lifeguards save lives and thwart crime, as they often did in the series. So in some ways both versions of “Baywatch” are similar. However, there are differences.
First, “Baywatch” the television series was family viewing. In fact, as I remember, the head lifeguard played by David Hasselhoff was a widower with a young son. Some of the plots of the series were built around family and the youngest among the cast.
The new film is not for family viewing. There is a great deal of vulgar language and situations in the plot that are not for “Family Friendly.” This film earns the R-rating in the opening scene and only goes down from there. If you are easily offended, you will probably regret your decision to see this film in less time than it took to purchase your ticket.
Another difference of the film versus the series is that there is a big plot-line that involves a lot of violence and other elements that one would not expect. There are politics involved in this main plot. There is also murders, gunplay, drugs and some other elements that are simply different from the previous “Baywatch.”
Then there is the fact that the film is really a spoof of the original series. From the very beginning there is one joke after another. Some of the humor works, other parts are just weak or gross. I commented to a friend after seeing the film that “I think I laughed out loud five times.” That is a measure of a strong comedy for me; “How many times did it make me laugh out loud?” Five times is not a good score for a film that lasts 116 minutes.
I realize some people like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I have never been a fan though he did good job hosting “Saturday Night Live” recently. Of the films he has done, I would probably put “Moana” as his best and he is never on screen because it is an animated film.
The film also stars Zac Efron as a former Olympics Gold Medalist that has been hired to join the “Baywatch Staff.” Efron offers the film about as much as Johnson does. The film could have been just as well without either of them. I would note however, that it was recently reported the Efron is going to play serial killer Ted Bundy in an upcoming film entitled “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.” That might change Efron’s career.
So, if you like silly, vulgar and often gross humor, “Baywatch” may be for you. If you like Johnson or Efron, you might enjoy this cinematic beach party. If you really liked the old series, the film has a couple of cameos of David Hasselhoff that might spark fond memories. Or if you like a film where the corrupt politicians do not get their way, “Baywatch” may be for you.
Then, on the other hand, there are quite a few films playing in theaters near you. I can guarantee you, most of them are better than “Baywatch.” I say that for most of the films I have seen this summer, and most of the ones that are still ahead.
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.