‘Baywatch’: Priyanka Chopra deserves much better than this
Dry, cheaply-produced, and fell flat by a bland Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, even Priyanka Chopra’s hissing baddie can’t save it from drowning.
Director – Seth Gordon
Cast – Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Ilfenesh Hadera, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass, David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson
Rating – 1/5
It is said that US marines forced Saddam Hussein to watch South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut – a movie in which he is depicted as Satan’s boyfriend – over and over again in the days leading up to his hanging. The purpose of this exercise – which, depending on your own taste in films, could mean anything from complete humiliation to mild torture – remains unclear. However, in the future, to ease the pain of anti-terror operatives, confused by which movie to show Basher al-Assad or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, might I suggest Baywatch.
Like the show on which it is based, it centres around a team of lifeguards with an identity crisis. They’re led by Mitch Buchannon (played by The Rock, in yet another of his saintly alpha male roles), who deals with most matters by hurling insults at whoever is within earshot. Usually, that person is Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a washed-up Olympic gold medalist with a drinking problem, looking for a new job (and valuable life lessons along the way).
But their paradise is under a threat posed by a business tycoon called Victoria Leeds (played with moustache-twirling, cat-scratching over-the-topness by Priyanka Chopra, although she has neither a moustache to twirl, nor a cat’s head to scratch). Mitch believes Victoria is leading a Scarface-like drug smuggling operation on his beach, and decides to get to the bottom of it – sharing most lifeguards’ natural thirst to solve murky real estate scams.
Two motivational speeches later, his ‘Avengers of the beach’ are neck deep in a 21 Jump Street copycat with a piece of the laughs.
The earliest, most telling sign of Baywatch’s fate was in the casting. None of the actors (Jon Bass excluded) have shown any particular comedic chops. Without doubt, The Rock is an ever-lasting reservoir of charm, and there are few sequences he can’t elevate just by cracking that famous smile, but Efron is only as good as the script he’s provided. Unfortunately for him, it often seems as if they made Baywatch off the cuff, without a firm plan, buoyed by barrels of Chinese money. He can be funny – just take the two Neighbours movies as an example – but even he can’t polish a scene in which involves him inspecting a dead man’s nether regions (without gloves).
And as far as the women are concerned, their presence seems to register only when they are running in slow-motion, or when they are gawking (like the rest of us) at other women running in slow-motion. It’s as if they took the Bechdel Test – a concept which states that a movie has to have at least two women in it, who talk to each other, about something besides a man – and somehow managed to strip it naked and parade it in front of an obnoxious crowd of sexist monsters.
Amusingly, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick proposed an (just slightly) exaggerated upgrade to the Bechdel Test. She called it the Sexy Lamp Test. “If you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft,” she said.
I’m not for a moment implying that Priyanka Chopra’s character should be replaced by a sexy lamp in Baywatch, but if you focus hard enough, you could easily imagine her villain as a bland, pudgy man with daddy issues – which, if you think about it, is essentially the same thing.
Baywatch is a ‘comedy’ which makes the weird decision to not star known comedic actors in main roles. It is written by two men whose biggest credits include Freddy vs Jason and Friday the 13th (comedies, but not intentionally). It boasts unapologetically horrible CGI, even worse green screen effects, and the maturity of a 12-year-old boy whose internet privileges have been taken away. It gives the impression of being stitched together almost as an afterthought, the sort of film in which scenes intended to be in the first act end up in the third – and everyone smirks at each other thinking we won’t notice.
Well, we noticed. This is a shipwreck of a film. Everyone involved is flailing about overboard. And the best lifeguards in the business are busy solving crimes.
Note: Unsurprisingly, the CBFC has murdered Baywatch. Scenes that you saw in the trailer end abruptly. There is virtually no swearing. Visual gags have been hacked to bits. They’ve tied a gag around the film’s mouth and pushed it into the ocean to drown. There’s no telling just how badly it ruins the film, but it most definitely destroys the experience.