Review: 'Baywatch', Dwayne Johnson & Zac Efron Bring Waves Of Dumb Summer Fun

Dwayne Johnson can do pretty much anything he wants, and do it well. If he actually did decide to run for President (with or without Tom Hanks as his VP) he would likely win in a landslide. Mr. "Franchise Viagara" can even extend his awesome powers to a potentially horrible Baywatch movie. After the aggressively unfunny CHIPS just a few weeks ago there was little reason to have confidence in another R-rated TV-to-Movie remake. Well, little reason except for Dwayne Johnson, who carries this often hilarious, eye candy-filled parody to heights that don't quite hit 21 Jump Street levels, but you'll be hard pressed to find a funnier comedy to beat the summer heat.

The 21 Jump Street comparison is apt because they basically share the same plot, only with a lot more sand, bikinis, and glistening man bods. There's plenty to look at no matter who you are, which is one of the things that made the inexplicably popular and long-lived Baywatch TV series such an international darling despite being really terrible. This version of Baywatch took seven writers to come up with its array of dick and vomit gags, some of which land with a thud and others that land with an appropriate splash. But where the film gets it right is being totally in on the joke. Johnson plays a hulking version of David Hasselhoff's Mitch Buchanan, head lifeguard of the apparently-prestigious Baywatch crew. The first time we meet him he's doing what he does best. No, not flexing his muscles while sweat shines off of his pecs and domed head, but rescuing a paraglider, in slow-motion, while sea creatures cheer him on. Yes, this is going to be off the friggin' wall ridiculous.

That's just the start, because the source material is ludicrous, anyway. Mitch and his team which includes Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera), and CJ (the stunning Kelly Rohrbach) aren't just typical lifeguards. They're like the Scooby Gang only with much better abs. They save lives and solve crimes, much to the chagrin of their boss (Rob Huebel) and local law enforcement (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who wish they would just be regular lifeguards. But what fun is there in that? Local tryouts bring a handful of new recruits; the tech guy Ronnie (Jon Bass in a scene-stealing performance), go-getter Summer (Alexandra Daddario, eyes still bluer than any ocean), and disgraced Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron), who was guaranteed a spot on the team because he makes good PR. How a guy nicknamed the "Vomit Comet" can be good PR is anybody's guess, but Mitch isn't letting him off the hook. The two immediately clash; Matt is cocky and breaks the rules, while Mitch only refers to him by Boy Band nicknames. Matt says the team's crime-solving antics sound like "a really far-fetched TV show", and he's right.

The case to be solved involves drugs turning up on the beach, and a rising body count, all beginning with the arrival of deadly gorgeous real estate mogul Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra). Mitch isn't won over by her charms, and sets out to expose her, which pisses off some powerful people in high places. Leeds isn't much of a foe, despite her aims to be a Bond villain someday, but Baywatch's attempts to crack the case are pretty funny. Ronnie is usually the guy who gets stuck with all of the really humiliating stuff, whether it's getting his junk stuck in a wooden plank (having a crush on CJ will do that), or twerking at a glamorous dinner party as a form of distraction. But Matt is also the butt of jokes, too, as the arrogant Ken doll is as stupid as he is chiseled.

Speaking of which, can we talk about how good Zac Efron has become in playing exactly this kind of airhead role? I remember there was a time when he seemed at odds with dirtying up his good boy Disney Channel persona, but he has turned doing exactly that into an art form. He stands up well against Johnson, and even punches him in the face at one point, which for a second has you hoping for some kind of WrestleMania showdown. Maybe in the sequel if there is one?

In more ways than one Efron can't overshadow Johnson, nor can he lift a refrigerator quite like The Rock can. If you're a fan then you get everything from Johnson diving off of cliffs, leaping onto speeding jet skis, punching out bad guys and droppin' one-liners. The only thing he doesn't get? A love interest. Shockingly there isn't much romance anywhere (Efron and Daddario's characters have a thing, but it's pretty weak) for Mitch, although one is teased with Stephanie. Again, maybe in the sequel?

Seth Gordon is a smart enough director to know what he's got, and doesn't get in the way of his cast. Some of the gags feel ad-libbed, especially between Johnson and Efron, and there's a "I can't believe we're making a stupid Baywatch movie" vibe that is sort of infectious. Yeah, Baywatch is stupid, and crude, and full of endless amounts of cheesecake (again, plenty on both sides), but it's also exactly the kind of movie the summer season is made for. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5