Baywatch: A hunk of junk that not even The Rock can rescue

This reboot of the 1990s TV show is so poor, it even messes up the David Hasselhoff cameo

Baywatch
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Director: Seth Gordon
Cert: 12A
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Priyanka Chopra, Jon Bass, Ilfenesh Hadera
Running Time: 1 hr 58 mins

It's not unreasonable that Seth Gordon's mercilessly rubbish reboot of the 1990s TV show expected to get by on the collective charms of Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson. Plenty of so-so movies – Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, San Andreas – have chugged along, powered entirely by the presence of The Rock.

Until Baywatch, in fact, we felt entirely certain that the global energy crisis could be solved overnight, if only some boffin could figure out a way to harness the international surge of goodwill that happens whenever His Geologicalness appears on a big screen.

Until Baywatch.

Here is a film so poor, so half-arsed, and so contemptuous of its audience, that it screws up one of the great, (previously) infallible tropes of contemporary cinema: the David Hasslehoff cameo.

A lively overture, which sees Mitch Buchanan (Dwayne Johnson) execute a daring rescue against a cartoonish seaside – replete with happy dolphins – points toward a campy reprise of the original coastguard-themed show: “Why does it always look like she’s in slo-mo?” etc.

Unhappily, Damian Shannon and Mark Swift’s lazy screenplay soon ditches the kitsch in favour of a straight-up bro-down between Mitch and cocksure rookie lifeguard Matt (Efron). Muscles are duly flexed while Mr Johnson repeats the film’s only joke: referring to Efron by the names of boybands. One Direction! Ha! You like that? Good. Let’s recycle the gag as Jonas Brothers, New Kids on the Block, NSYNC, and – wait for it – High School Musical.

A few misogynist swearwords (bitch, man-gina), and hackneyed phrases (“not a single f*ck was given”) later, and they’re best buds, hunting down an evil drug-dealing property developer who wants to privatise the entire coast (Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra).

And then they’re not best buds anymore, because Matt isn’t a team player and keeps insisting that the investigation into the ludicrous villainess ought to be police business. “But we’re coastguards” begins as a poke at the TV source but is repeated so often, it feels like a Pinteresque interrogation. “What have you done with Pamela Anderson?” asks no one, because sure enough, she pops up before the closing credits.

Early on, Zac Efron wonders aloud if this isn’t just some sadistic hazing ritual. By the end, we were wondering the exact same thing.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic

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