For reasons that I don’t entirely understand, Stephanie had been dying to see the movie reboot of Baywatch. She’s never mentioned the show before. She’s never spoken of her love for post-Knight Rider David Hasselhoff or pre-Hat Squad Billy Warlock. She’s never regaled me with tales of how she learned how to do an emergency tracheotomy with a disposable ink pen from it. She’s never spoken of her fear of cursed idols that nearly drown surfers with white boy jeri curls (ok, that last one MIGHT have been the Brady Bunch). As far as I can remember, she’s never before mentioned being a fan of the show at all. And I want to believe that she’s not. In fact, for the benefit of our relationship I choose to just believe that she wanted to create a mental spank bank of slow motion The Rock and Zac Efron running imagery… or even slow motion Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach running… you know to supplement the images she has saved in her head of Hasselhoff and Pam Anderson… Because dammit, that’s the only respectable way to watch Baywatch. Think about it… from 1989 to 2001, if anyone ever caught you watching Baywatch, you’d quickly turn the channel and scream “No no no! I swear! It’s not what it looks like!!! I only watch it to masturbate!!!!” Because you had pride dammit!
So anyway… I choose to believe that’s why she wanted to see it. Because if it was because she was intrigued by the premise and plot or something… I don’t think I could ever talk to her again… I choose to believe! Because I love her… and I want to be able to continue to respect her.
So yeah… we went to see Baywatch. I joked before it started that I was kind of already writing the review in my head. I knew from the buzz that they were “going for a hard R-rating.” In fact, the Rock has been raving about it. So from that I had basically mapped out the outline for the movie in my head before it even began. I figured “ok, so what we’re looking at is something that is maybe a cross between like a Airplane/Naked Gun level slapstick applied to the basic premise of an old TV show… and then maybe throw in a bunch of Cinmeax level-softcore porn scenes nudity… but in slow motion. Boobs boobs everywhere… running along the beach and bouncing ever so gently at say 96 frames per second. Because that’s what an R-rated Baywatch would look like, right? And then maybe at some point Mitch Buchannon does emergency open heart surgery on the beach with a ballpoint pen and some shoestring. I mean I’ve seen the show. (But only to jack off. Seriously! I swear!!!)
But then I heard somewhere that the movie was NOT going to have any female nudity. And frankly I thought… uhh… what’s the point then? But then I was told that there is some full frontal male nudity and I started to revise the narrative I had written in my head. This stars The Rock and Zac Efron. The female leads are significantly less famous. Maybe that would be the hook! Perhaps this is a post-modern deconstruction of the male gaze and this is all about the objectification of the male body. I told Steph this theory and explained that I might be kind of disappointed if the movie didn’t have like 40 minutes of gratuitous footage of penises bouncing up and down in slow motion as beefy men ran up and down the beach.
That’s not the way they went.
Honestly, I was kind of surprised by the movie. It was a LOT better than I expected it to be. It was self-aware and self-deprecating… which is what I was kind of expecting… but it didn’t go quite as far as I thought it would. It was… dare I say… actually kind of smart. I mean, as smart as anything following the basic Baywatch premise could possibly be (I assume… I mean, I personally have only ever watched the it for long enough to spank the monkey and all that). The film lampshades itself by continuously making reference to the fact that there is no logical reason that a team of life guards should be investigating a crime spree… and yet they are doing so anyway. It’s certainly not Citizen Kane. But somehow it managed to take the base premise and make it charming and amusing for what it was.
In other words, the plot actually… made sense. It was kind of shocking really. The story line was as engaging as it possibly could have been. There were definite character arcs. There was development. There were attempts at humor which, while ridiculously low-brow, I have to admit that I found myself laughing at and enjoying, as did other people in the theater.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not actually “good” or anything like that. I mean, not even remotely. Even with it’s self-awareness, it is ridiculously contrived. And there are a couple MASSIVE plot holes brought about by bad editing. In the biggest, Hannibal Buress‘s character clearly has at least two if not three scenes that are sitting on the editing room floor that make his storyline not make any sense. He’s in an early portion in the first act, then shows up in the second act and clearly some shit has gone down to get him to where he is, but there’s no explanation as to what it was. And then the same thing happens again with his character from the second act to the third. It’s not funny. It’s just missing. It’s as if in editing the film, the producers said “this is running 150 min. I thought I told you to get it under two hours” and the editor said “yeah, I’m working on it. I guess I’ll take out some dick jokes” so the producer said “no no no!!! Not the dick jokes. How about we cut a couple scenes of this Dave character that Burress is playing?” and the editor said “but if we do that the plot won’t make sense” and the producer said “are you shitting me? this is fucking Baywatch. No one gives a shit! Just make sure it’s rated R!”
And really, probably no one does give a shit. Because that’s not why you watch Baywatch. You watch Baywatch to choke the chicken to gently bouncing boobs in slow motion… that and because maybe you might need to one day know how to perform triple bypass surgery with a Bic, a a couple soda straws and some chewing gum. And this time it’s Rated R.
And that was probably my biggest problem with it — and I don’t know that it’s so much a problem with the movie so much as it is a problem with the way the MPAA rates movies. Basically, what I’m saying is the that the R-rating here was gratuitous. And not in the good gratuitous way that you want out of Baywatch where you can cuddle the kielbasa to slow-motion hair flips over dripping ocean water gently across spandex lifted cleavage (or… I dunno… whatever the cock and balls equivalent of that would be). This was just gratuitous gratuitousness. This movie didn’t HAVE to be Rated-R at all. There is some penis… I’d say there’s maybe three to four solid minutes of penis in one scene. And there are a lot of fucks. Not people fucking (in slow motion so that you can polish the family jewels… because lets face it, that’s why you’re here). There was just a lot of the word “fuck.” But not really comedically. It was actually quite natural. These are regular people (well, really beautiful people) working and hanging out on the beach. And they say “fuck” a lot in a completely natural way. It didn’t need to be there. The dialogue could have just been written in that artificial way that all PG-13 movies and TV shows are written where we pretend that the word “fuck” doesn’t exist because MPAA censorship rules are stupid. But it wasn’t. Instead they just said “fuck it” and they talk like real live people. It sort of works in that it doesn’t detract from anything. But it doesn’t really add anything either because this isn’t Breaking Bad. There just isn’t enough here to where it’s important to build the legitimacy of the world through the naturalness that language provides. Most people would probably never notice. And there was nothing else really happening in the film that would force an R rating. Like I said, there’s no boobs or anything like that. In fact, I’d argue that the salaciousness of the film is actually LESS than the original show. There’s only a couple of brief slow-motion running shots, and they’re played for a gag, so they’re really hard to wrestle the old rooster to. So really, it’s biggest achievement in this area is pointing out how ridiculous MPAA ratings are in every other movie ever.
Only they had the R-rating… so they had to do something with it so people would say “oh, that’s why it’s Rated R!” so they leaned into the penis joke. They leaned really really hard into the penis joke for a long long time (see what I did there). If the penis scene is four minutes (I’m estimating, I didn’t time it), it’s maybe 3 and a half minutes too long. And it doesn’t like… do tricks. How are you going to have a penis in a Baywatch movie for four solid minutes and not having it bouncing in slow motion. You know… for the ladies. I’m telling you, it was a missed opportunity. And it’s not even the best penis joke in the film. There was a completely clothed penis joke earlier that was like the star penis. It put the naked penis to shame. The point is… even with all the R-rated language (and the penis), I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “hard.”
The thing is, it was cute… it was amusing. It was about ten times as good as it really had to be. The Rock, as always is delightful. Efron absolutely works his ass off for this movie… such that it is. A third male lead played by Jon Bass is quite funny, though underutilized despite being involved in the better of the two penis scenes. The supporting leads don’t exactly shine… but there really isn’t much for them to work with. They’re certainly not bad… it’s just that their essential job is “look sexy running along the beach and delivering bad dialogue.” And while Daddario, Rohrbach and Ilfenesh Hadera are definitely sexy, they certainly aren’t the genetic freaks of nature that Rock and Efron are and aren’t really an improvement on the original cast in terms of acting ability or looks. None of the three females have a storyline of their own other beyond their presence as love interest for the main characters, so there was a lot of them waiting around for an opportunity to run in show motion… opportunities that don’t quite come enough. And Hadera’s subplot, which clearly should have been as romantic counterpart to the Rock, ends up on the cutting room floor with Buress’s scenes.
It went for like the 21 Jump Street revival vibe. It didn’t quite get there…. but it went for it and it landed in a comfortable space when it did. I can say quite honestly that I enjoyed myself more than I did with the Ghostbusters reboot from last year. The film tried a lot harder than it really had to and it should be commended for that. I mean, I don’t think I can pretend that it’s a better film than it is or anything like that but it deserves to be recognized for effort. Basically, it deservers a fucking cookie. There’s something there. I don’t know what… but there’s…. something…
That said, if I don’t see at least one emergency heart transplant with a gel pen, a paper clip and a water balloon while boobs and dicks bounce gently in the background to help the audience clear the snorkel in the sequel, I’m probably going to be disappointed.
★★¾☆☆+? (2.75 out of five stars… plus a fucking cookie).
And for those of you looking for… “something else” here… I leave you with this: