I was actually excited to learn I was covering BAYWATCH.

I’m a big fan of cartoonishly over-the-top, self-aware comedies, so a film satirizing the classic show immediately piqued my interest. BAYWATCH is far from the first comedy to take a dated TV show and transform it into a comedic film, but I’m enjoying this growing trend and I’m eager to see where it leads us. At best, I was expecting something on par with 21 JUMP STREET, at worst the cinematic apocalypse of CHIPS. Either way, I expected something worth writing about.

[BAYWATCH] How can a movie like this not at least be memorable?

Instead, BAYWATCH is a middling comedy that’s neither impressive enough to praise nor terrible enough to lambaste. It does just enough to entertain those with a soft-spot for immature hijinks and over-the-top cheese, but there’s little here for anyone else.

So, does BAYWATCH have anything to offer? Is it really as bad as everyone says? Or does it have some redeeming qualities? Well, let’s take a look!

A Derivative Story with a Few Laughs

When you’re watching a movie in the style of BAYWATCH, a derivative plot is not only expected, but encouraged. These films exist to parody the tropes and platitudes of the past, taking them to ridiculous extremes while drawing attention to their own stupidity.

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But taking a bog-standard story and turning it into something funny takes clever writing, snappy delivery, and a subversion of the viewer’s expectations. BAYWATCH never quite achieves this. The plot will never surprise you. You know exactly what’s going to happen from beginning to end. While the film loves to draw attention to its own outlandishness, at no point does it challenge your expectations. These films are best served by a third act subversion, where reality comes crashing down on the protagonists, or when the conflict goes beyond the absurdity of the source material. The movie attempts this, but never goes far enough to rise above its own banality.

The Humor Is Very Inconsistent

The film is at its best when it’s being completely shameless, and its absurdity reaches cartoonish proportions — when the characters don ridiculous disguises and flagrantly break the law, or when the title rises out of the ocean as dolphins dance in the background — but these moments are few and far-between. The overblown action scenes are fun to watch when the shaking camera isn’t getting in the way. One highlight is a fight scene taking place in a child’s bedroom, with bottles, baby powder, and even a baby picture used as weapons. There’s also a few pockets of extreme gross-out humor, but thankfully they never overwhelm the film. Still, it feels like the movie is afraid to go all out, to accept what it is and embrace its own madness. As a result, BAYWATCH fails to fully satisfy its target audience: people like me who enjoy stupid humor.

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Decent Characters and Comedic Bickering

In a film like this, the characters should be as standard as the plot. What’s important is that the movie pokes fun at its own archetypical characters, and that we see these tropes taken to places we’ve never seen before. While the characters of BAYWATCH lack any of this nuance, their bickering carries the film. The Rock and Zac Efron have decent comedic chemistry, resulting in some snappy insults and comedic one-liners. While The Rock plays the role of the classically corny BAYWATCH character, Efron is the outsider, constantly pointing out the insanity displayed on screen.

[BAYWATCH] If only these two were given a better script to work with.

He exists as a vessel for the audience, frequently reminding the cast that they’re just lifeguards. Hannibal Buress delivers his personal brand of deapan humor, playing the straight man to Jon Bass’s oddball. Unfortunately he’s missing from the majority of the film, disrupting the comedic balance. When the characters are allowed to riff off each other, BAYWATCH definitely becomes an enjoyable, if forgettable, experience.

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A Pretty Good Soundtrack

BAYWATCH’s music is the driving force behind the action. Not a moment goes by when a song isn’t playing in the background. At first I found it overbearing, and I can definitely understand if some find the endless cacophony distracting. As time went on, I began to enjoy the soundtrack, which includes everything from oldies, EDM, to the critically acclaimed rap duo Run The Jewels. Whether you enjoy the music is a personal matter, but it definitely suits the tone of the film throughout. If nothing else, I’ll probably download the soundtrack.

The Verdict

BAYWATCH will be forgotten as soon it leaves theaters. There’s nothing spectacularly bad about it, nor is there anything worth praising. When all is said and done, I mildly enjoyed it. I don’t regret seeing it and I don’t feel my money was wasted. At the same time, I find it difficult to recommend. There are better versions of this film, and you’re not missing anything by skipping it. Ultimately, I want more movies like this to exist. I’m enjoying this new sub-genre of comedy, where dated classics are given satirical updates. Hopefully more movies like BAYWATCH come out, and hopefully they leave more than a lukewarm impression.

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