Catholic News Service
Eye candy and escapism were the draw of the television series from which director Seth Gordon’s action comedy “Baywatch” has been adapted.
Whatever success the show, which began on NBC but had a longer life in syndication, may have had back in the 1990s, it takes more than an ensemble of good-looking people running around in bathing suits to sustain a feature film.
And, since neither Gordon nor screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift can seem to decide whether they’re out to make a pop-culture spoof or a crime-solving adventure, their film turns out to be a predictably shallow mess.
Matters are not helped by the absurdly earnest tone in which the conflict at the center of the plot is put forward to the audience. This clash pits newcomer Matt Brody (Zac Efron) against Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson), the longtime leader of the lifeguarding team of the title.
A disgraced Olympic swimmer whose selfish ways and fondness for partying cost his team a medal, Matt bucks against Mitch’s ethos of cooperation and mutual concern. As the dialogue heavy-handedly seeks to drive home, however, lives could be endangered if Matt doesn’t learn to collaborate with his new colleagues.
Like the group’s sober-toned effort to foil scheming real-estate developer and possible drug dealer Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), talk about the potentially fatal consequences of Matt’s ego-driven mistakes rings hollow when interspersed with lingering views of barely clad bodies.
The serious sleuthing also jars against the surfeit of low-minded humor in “Baywatch,” much of which displays a preoccupation with male characters’ crotches. This misguided motif reaches a low point with a prolonged sight gag involving the private parts of a cadaver. While the movie’s self-conscious flesh peddling is mostly just tiresome, this effort to reap gross-out giggles from less appealing anatomy registers as degrading.
The film contains some gunplay and physical violence with momentary but extreme gore, strong sexual content, including full nudity and off-screen nonmarital activity, several profanities and a few milder oaths as well as pervasive crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
Catholic News Service