Beaches, Bathing Suits, And Finally On The Big Screen, 'Baywatch' | KUOW News and Information

Beaches, Bathing Suits, And Finally On The Big Screen, 'Baywatch'

May 26, 2017
Originally published on May 26, 2017 6:31 pm

It's a beach in Florida this time — I know you care because we're all here for the plot, right? — and head lifeguard Mitch Buchannon is now The Rock not The Hoff.

"Our team is the elite of the elite," Dwayne Johnson's Mitch tells his Baywatch recruits, "the heart and soul of this very beach."

Also the pecs, glutes, and washboard abs of this very beach, of course. A beach that is apparently in peril, though you'd hardly guess from the less-than-rigorous lifeguard-tryouts Mitch is holding. Or from the snark he throws at Zac Efron's stuck-up Olympic swimmer, Matt Brody, who tries to get out of those tryouts. Mitch won't even utter the kid's name.

"Hey, One Direction..." he snorts, then turns to returning guard Ilfenesh Hadera for support. "New Kid on the Block here is from Iowa. A lot of oceans in Iowa?"

"What is this," wonders Brody, "lifeguard hazing?"

And yeah, that's it in a clamshell, and it's all the film has going on for most of the first hour. Which will probably be fine with its intended audience. On TV, the series was cancelled after its first season, then became a megahit during a decade or so in syndication.

Movies operate on different principles, though, and internet porn has made skimpy bathing suits less potent draws than they once were. So the screenwriters have come up with jokes to fill the time between explosions and near-drownings. Dwayne Johnson is endearing enough to keep that boy-band name thing going a lot longer than you'd think he could. Efron's decently amusing, too, mostly at playing dumb, as when Alexandra Daddario suggests he raise his gaze.

"You should look at my face," she flirts.

"I'm trying," he smirks, "but it's so close to your boobs."

You'll note that the women are a take-charge bunch these days (not that Pamela Anderson wasn't — no emails please). No one would accuse the film's women of having personalities, but the filmmakers did decide to let them make the jokes about physicality, not be the butt of them.

"Why does she always look like she's running in slo-mo?" wonders Daddario, as she watches Kelly Rohrbach's CJ do what Anderson did before her.

"You see it too?" marvels Jon Bass' pudgy guard-in-training. It's the cinematic equivalent of air-quotes.

The guys meanwhile get the gross-out stuff — genitalia caught in a lounge chair, a trip to the morgue where the talk turns scrotal (actually, the guy-talk frequently takes that turn). And when nudity is called for, who ends up naked? Bass, natch, who doesn't realize he's in a co-ed shower.

Females empowered, males embarrassed. All played with bathing suits skimpy enough that you figure there must be a spandex shortage in Florida. Which is guilty-pleasure-ish fun for a while, until director Seth Gordon feels the need to tell an actual story, involving real estate deals and a gorgeous villain (crossover Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra) in evening gowns so clingy, low-cut, and slit up the side that she might as well be in the red suits Mitch's team is wearing.

Unlike the setup, the story founders and cramps like a tourist who swam too soon after an all-you-can-eat buffet, which is pretty much the only thing the filmmakers don't toss into the water by film's end. The plot doesn't quite sink Baywatch, but it sure slows it down. Still, as Efron shouts over a motorboat's roar, "all things considered, things coulda gone a lot worse." True that.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And now beaches, bathing suits and "Baywatch" - "Baywatch" on the big screen. On TV, the series turned out to be critic-proof, no doubt the movie will too. That has not kept NPR's Bob Mondello from filing this review.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: It's a beach in Florida this time. I know you care because we're all here for the plot, right? And head lifeguard Mitch Buchannon is now The Rock, not the Hoff.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BAYWATCH")

DWAYNE JOHNSON: (As Mitch Buchannon) Our team is the elite of the elite, the heart and soul of this very beach.

MONDELLO: Also the pecs, glutes and washboard abs of this very beach which is apparently in peril, though you'd not guess that from the less than rigorous lifeguard tryouts Mitch is holding or the snark he throws at Zac Efron's stuck-up Olympic swimmer who tries to get out of those tryouts. Mitch won't even utter the kid's name.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BAYWATCH")

JOHNSON: (As Mitch Buchannon) Hey, One Direction, you here for the qualifiers?

ZAC EFRON: (As Matt Brody) I'm Matt Brody. I don't have to try out. I've got two gold medals.

JOHNSON: (As Mitch Buchannon) Hey, Steph.

ILFENESH HADERA: (As Stephanie Holden) Hey.

JOHNSON: (As Mitch Buchannon) New Kids on the Block here is from Iowa.

EFRON: (As Matt Brody) Oh, man.

HADERA: (As Stephanie Holden) Really?

JOHNSON: (As Mitch Buchannon) Let me ask you this - a lot of oceans in Iowa?

HADERA: (As Stephanie Holden) No, just ponds and lakes and cocky pretty boys. Hey, Mitch, what happened to that last pretty boy recruit we had?

JOHNSON: (As Mitch Buchannon) He died.

EFRON: (As Matt Brody) What is this, lifeguard hazing?

MONDELLO: Yeah, pretty much. Dwayne Johnson is endearing enough to keep that boy band name thing going a lot longer than you'd think he could. Efron's decently amusing too, mostly at playing dumb.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BAYWATCH")

ALEXANDRA DADDARIO: (As Summer Quinn) Did you just look at my boobs?

EFRON: (As Matt Brody) I...

DADDARIO: (As Summer Quinn) You should look at my face.

EFRON: (As Matt Brody) I'm trying, but it's so close to your boobs.

MONDELLO: You'll note that the gals are a take-charge bunch these days, not that Pamela Anderson wasn't. No emails, please. No one would accuse the films women of having personalities, but the filmmakers decided to let them make the jokes about physicality, not be the butt of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BAYWATCH")

DADDARIO: (As Summer Quinn) Why does she always look like she's running in slo-mo?

JON BASS: (As Ronnie Greenbaum) You see it too?

MONDELLO: It's the cinematic equivalent of air quotes. The guys, meanwhile, get the gross-out stuff - genitalia caught in a lounge chair, a trip to the morgue where the talk turns scrotal - actually, the guy talk frequently takes that turn. And when nudity is called for, who ends up naked? The pudgy guy who doesn't realize he's in a co-ed shower.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BAYWATCH")

BASS: (As Ronnie Greenbaum, singing) Oh, oh, oh.

KELLY ROHRBACH: (As CJ Parker) Damn, Ronnie.

BASS: (As Ronnie Greenbaum, screaming).

ROHRBACH: (As CJ Parker) Never really heard a guy sing that song, but you're really good.

BASS: (As Ronnie Greenbaum) Thank you.

ROHRBACH: (As CJ Parker) By the way, when we shower in here, we keep our suits on.

MONDELLO: Females empowered, males embarrassed, all played with bathing suits skimpy enough that you figure there must be a spandex shortage in Florida. Which is guilty pleasure-ish fun for a while until director Seth Gordon feels the need to tell an actual story involving real estate deals and a gorgeous villain in evening gowns.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BAYWATCH")

JOHNSON: (As Mitch Buchannon) Drugs, murder, dead body on our beach, and it all started once she took over.

EFRON: (As Matt Brody) Am I the only one that thinks this is clearly a job for the police?

MONDELLO: Unlike the setup, the story founders and cramps like a tourist who swam too soon after an all-you-can-eat buffet. It doesn't quite sink "Baywatch."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BAYWATCH")

EFRON: (As Matt Brody) All things considered, things could have got a lot worse.

MONDELLO: That's fair. For ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF JIMI JAMISON SONG, "I'M ALWAYS HERE - SINGLE VERSION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.