Baywatch. The name alone is insanely evocative, conjuring up images of bronzed bodies, bouncing breasts and David Hasselhoff blasting his way through "some people staaaaand in the darkness, afraid to step intooo the light!" For a time it was one of the most widely syndicated and watched TV program in the entire world – despite its altogether preposterous premise about impossibly attractive lifeguards solving crimes and stopping diamond smugglers with the same regularity that they prevented a casual drowning. The show was ridiculous and it was gratuitous...but it worked, and it was great TV.
Fast forward twenty-odd years and Baywatch now finds itself the latest victim of a visionless Hollywood system forever sucking the life out of cinema by simply rehashing old ideas and formats rather then gambling on something new. TV to film has admittedly seen a handful of notable wins (21 Jump Street, for example), but the vast majority of these reboots fall harder and faster than the abysmal jokes they attempt to deliver (think Power Rangers, CHiPS and the disastrous Absolutely Fabulous).
The new Baywatch movie is sadly no exception. This is puerile comedy at best, where the laughs are so infrequent they almost feel accidental. It is a film without purpose, failing to even entertain at the most basic level. There's no finesse to be found; no craft on display or subtlety to admire. It's a stupid and pointless movie whose only aim seems to be to rob you of both your time and your money. If that seems unfair, consider that the longest scene in the film centres largely upon Zac Efron's character having to fondle and examine a dead man's flaccid penis and scrotum while his partner laughs and takes photos on his phone. As for the second longest scene? Another man's penis (erect, this time) is wedged in a park bench and needs to be extricated while onlookers laugh and take photos on their phones.
In amongst it all is Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson – and it's a credit to the man's charisma and star power that he almost singlehandedly keeps this stinker afloat. With penetrating eyes and a big beaming grin, Johnson treads that appealing line between physically intimidating and loveably huggable (something we've not really seen since Schwarzenegger's iconic turn in Kindergarten Cop). His onscreen rapport with Efron is not without its appeal, although there's absolutely no plot or script to back it up. As the film's antagonist, Bollywood superstar Priyanka Chopra lends her class and talent to a project that otherwise has none. Meanwhile, the supporting cast grimaces and stumbles their way through scene after scene without any clear idea why they're there or what they're doing.
Sometimes self-aware and other times bizarrely serious, Baywatch is a film entirely out of its depth, slipping beneath the waves and in no way worthy of rescue.