Back to the Beach (Baywatch, 2017)
Honestly, of all the “Drama TV Show Made as a Comedy Movie” options? Baywatch seemed like the best option. Even at its most earnest (and Baywatch saw itself as a serious adventure drama), it was pretty hilarious.
So, opting to go the route of comedy, made sense. I would have not given Baywatch a chance, were it not for some of its casting choices. Most specifically Dwayne Johnson and Alexandra Daddario.
One of the weirdest things to me about the original show was it apparently had a 65% female viewership. A show known for slow motion shots of Pam Anderson (and a series of Playboy Playmates that followed her) had a large female audience. Maybe it was David Hasselhoff? So, just how well does the Baywatch movie translate?
The short answer would be “Okay”. The whole cast is pretty good and clearly get their roles. The film opens with beautiful beach shots leading up to a big rescue by Mitch Buchanon (Johnson), leaping into the ocean to save an unconscious swimmer. The guy asks Mitch if he is Batman, and Mitch replies, “Sure am…just browner.” We see Mitch is rather beloved, one guy making daily sand sculptures of Mitch because he saved the life of the guy’s sister.
We are introduced quickly to the rest of the cast. Ronnie is an aspiring lifeguard with a massive crush on gorgeous C.J. A running gag is how flustered he gets around her and uh…an enthusiastic response in his pants. Summer (Daddario) is another aspiring lifeguard who catches the attention of Matt Brody, an infamous gold medalist swimmer who joins the crew for community service. Stephanie is Mitch’s second in command.
The central plot is the discovery of drugs on the beach, leading to the team’s efforts to expose a drug ring. The plot is very simple but overly easy to sustain as the story hits the typical beats as many stumbling blocks impede their investigation. Primarily, they are not cops.
The humor and language are more ‘R’ rated than the original show, though only one sequence goes overboard. There is a sequence in the morgue that goes for gross out humor that oddly enough feels a bit out of place. A lot of the humor is based in poking fun at the source material. At one point, everyone is throwing crime scenarios at Brody. He is arguing that they should be going to the police, rather than solve the case themselves. He points out that the scenarios all sound like some unrealistic TV show. I am pretty sure these scenarios all were from the original series.
There is a moment when Summer and Ronnie are discussing how C.J. seems to move in slow motion. And here is where it gets to be a fine line. Because if you are poking fun at the show’s “jiggle” factor? You really run the risk of perpetuating it. This cast is all attractive, and especially the women. We are treated to all the women in sexy swimsuits, sexy gowns, sexy…well, you get the point.Of the central cast? The only average looking characters are guys. I am a bit torn on the Ronnie and C.J. plot line. It is a pretty tired “Average Guy and Hot Girl” scenario. On the other hand, both characters are likable and the relationship develops somewhat organically.
The jokes tend to be hit or miss, though there are a fair number of good laugh moments. The action sequences are actually quite nicely done and look great. There are some awesome underwater shots.
In the end, though, what works best in the film is its ensemble cast. They all have a certain charm that carries the film in a way the plot and humor do not. Like I said, Baywatch is okay and even enjoyable. But it never gets above its source material enough to feel fresh.