Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Zac Efron feature in this modern adaptation of an iconic TV franchise.
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Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) leads a team of lifeguards, called the Baywatch, in Emerald Bay, Florida. The team consists of two other female lifeguards: CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach) and Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera), the 2nd best lifeguard after Mitch. They are captain by an office bound politician, Captain Thorpe (Rob Huebel).
The lifeguards are holding qualifiers for new recruits. After the qualifiers, there are three eventual recruits that emerge. Alpha female, Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario). Tech nerd and CJ fanboy, Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass), who has also tried out twice before. Finally, disgraced 2-time Olympic Gold medal winning swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Effron). Brody is also known as the “vomit comet” after throwing up in the pool and letting his teammates down during an Olympic relay. His antics have earned him a reputation for being selfish and unreliable. He Even so, the captain wants him to be part of the team because it’s good publicity. It also fulfills the requirements of Brody’s parole.
Brody’s bravado gets under Mitch’s skin and he ends up challenging him to a specialized obstacle course. When Brody gases out, Mitch accuses him of showboating. Their duel is interrupted when a woman and her kids fall off the pier. The team jumps into action and Brody hijacks a motorcycle to get there first. Brody ends up endangering other civilians and the real lifeguards are able to save the family while Brody just stands looking on. Later that night, CJ finds Brody sleeping on the beach and offers him a bed. It turns out that that bed is in Mitch’s house. After all this, Brody starts to get with the program and starts training under Mitch.
Aside from training the new recruits, Mitch has also been investigating the appearance of a drug called Flaca on the beaches. The drugs seem to be connected to the Huntley Club, a resort owned by Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra). Leeds has been leaning on local politicians and business owners to take control of the bay in order to further her drug running operation. Eventually, people start dying around the bay and Mitch is determined to get to the bottom of it. Brody and the local police insist that this is a job for the police, not the lifeguards but Mitch believes that Baywatch can prevent deaths by not just waiting around.
The Baywatch team heads to a party being hosted by Leeds to get information. Brody ends up getting drunk at the party and failing at his job as a lookout. The next day, Brody wants to make good as a member of the team and heads to the morgue to investigate a dead body along with Mitch and Summer. While they’re at the morgue, they get a video of Leed’s henchmen admitting to the murder, but the video is taken. After a ridiculous chase sequence, they end up being told to drop the case by the Captain and the police. Of course, Mitch doesn’t listen and goes back to the Huntley with Brody to investigate. While they’re there, another dead body washes up on the beach. Mitch ends up being fired for not being at his post and the Captain puts Brody in charge.
Brody doesn’t want the job, but Mitch convinces him to lead the team. Brody ends up stealing a file from the police and takes it back to the rest of the team for help. They discover that Leeds plan is to privatize the beach so she can have free reign to sell drugs. In order to do this she needs the property of one last business man, who has gone missing. The team infiltrates Leeds’ yacht hoping to find the businessman. They find the businessman and the drugs, but Brody ends up being captured and locked in a shark cage that’s dropped to the bottom of the bay.
Brody is saved by Mitch, who was called over the CB radio he always listens to. Realizing that Leeds had bribed the captain, the team takes matters into their own hands and Brody and Mitch pursue her before she can escape. A fight ensues with Ronnie and CJ setting off fireworks to stop Leeds’ helicopter from landing. After taking out her henchmen, Mitch and Brody end up blowing Leeds up with a really big firework. Back on the shore, Leeds’ remaining crew is arrested and Brody knocks out the Captain.
Later on we see that Ronnie and CJ have hooked up and Brody and Summer are starting up some kind of relationship. After everything that’s happened, Mitch fully instates the trainees as lifeguards on the bay. The film ends with the team doing a slow-mo run down the beach, but Brody trips and falls (still in slow motion).
- Ronnie has a friend named Dave that is played by Hannibal Buress. Dave ends up doing tech work for Leeds that gets him killed.
- Oscar Nunez (The Office) plays Councilman Rodriguez, Leeds’ initial political contact. He’s the first person to be killed by Leeds men.
- There is a gag early on in the movie where Ronnie sees CJ and chokes on a carrot. When she gives him the Heimlich he gets aroused and decides to hide it by belly flopping on a beach chair. This ends up getting his erect penis caught between the slats of the chair. CJ tries to help but, of course, that just makes things worse. This whole thing ends up drawing quite a crowd.
- David Hasselhoff appears as “The Mentor”, who seems to also share the name Mitch Buchannon. He’s also in a little post credits clip, but that might just be as the ‘hoff.
- Pamela Anderson also gets a cameo in the movie’s last scene where she is introduced as the new captain. She also retains the name CJ Parker, now known as Casey Jean Parker.
What did I think?
This movie has been absolutely destroyed by critics, and for good reason. If you’re evaluating it “critically”, it’s not what you’d call a “good” movie. However, there’s never really any reason to believe that that’s what this movie is trying to be. The opening scene of the movie concludes with the Rock walking towards the camera in heroic slow motion while “BAYWATCH” ascends from the ocean amid explosions and, to top it off, three dolphins chest bump over his right shoulder. That shot alone tells you what kind of movie this is trying to be. This is a movie that’s trying to be fun. In that respect, it absolutely succeeds.
This movie, it’s premise and it’s characters are silly by their very nature and the movie knows it. They lean hard into the idea that lifeguards shouldn’t be trying to bust up a drug smuggling operation. Zac Efron’s character is basically just a pitch-perfect movie version of Ryan Lochte that refuses to ever be intelligent even when his character is being smart. Everyone is aware of how amazingly good looking everyone else on the beach is. The whole movie is an exercise in self-aware irreverence.
It’s also relatively tastefully done for a Baywatch movie. It’s 2017, so they know they can’t get away with objectifying women. So, they make sure that the objectification is across the entire cast. Everyone’s body is fair game in this movie, they even have a whole scene centered around the unfortunately erect penis of the team’s least attractive member (yes, I included that in a paragraph about the movie being tasteful). They also make sure that The Rock’s character has a competent female counter part in Ilfenesh Hadera. Granted, being competent in this kind of movie leaves her character without a lot to do, but it was worth noting that she adds positive female representation. Then there’s the fact that, despite having some very attractive women in the movie (in a different era, Alexandra Doddario and Kelly Rohrbach would’ve been the only people in the promo material for this movie), there is more time spent on Zac Efron’s bare body than anyone else.
As stupid as the movie is, it’s easily one of the most enjoyable things to come out this summer. I found myself unwittingly smiling at the movie throughout most of it. The only times I didn’t were when the movie occasionally stepped passed my stupid threshold. It also managed to find a little bit of heart with the evolution of Efron’s character and the inevitable hooking up of the younger characters. Really, it’s kind of a perfect adaptation of Baywatch for 2017.