The beach soap opera bursting with busty blondes and muscle-clad dudes premiered in 1989 on NBC and was canceled after the first season. Finding new life in syndication, the show ran for 11 seasons and became wildly popular around the world, making David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson international superstars — and the butt of many jokes, some self-induced (like Hasselhoff's infamous drunken hamburger video) — making it the perfect show to snarkily reboot in 2017...
If the reboot was funny.
Unfortunately, the film strays so far from the boob-bouncing camp for which the show was famous, it's nearly unrecognizable to fans of the original show. Here's what's different.
Zac Efron plays Matt Brody, a former Olympic medalist who’s currently fallen from grace due to a personal scandal à la Ryan Lochte. Brody hopes to restore his reputation by saving lives on a Florida beach with the Baywatch crew. This sounds like a good setup for a new character, but even with all those abs, Brody (like Lochte) never transcends his douchebag status.
To be fair, Hasselhoff does make a cameo appearance in a fantasy sequence, but why not have him be a central character in the story? Fans would eat it up! The filmmakers made a mistake not fully utilizing him.
Yes, the beach goddess Pamela Anderson makes a cameo of her own at the end of the film, but we would have loved to see more of the buxom beauty. Why not give her some dialogue? Again, she’s a shiny asset that gets underutilized.
Most likely shot in Florida and Georgia for the big tax breaks, there's a different vibe on these Southern beaches, specifically the fictional Emerald Bay. The iconic California surfer dude and girl are revered around the world for their easygoing lifestyles and hot bods. While we're sure there are some hot, easygoing lifeguards in Florida, it's just not the same landscape or culture Baywatch fans are yearning for.
Comic actor Jon Bass plays Ronnie Greenbaum, the boy who longs to bounce on the beach with all the beautiful gals and reap the glory of saving lives… if only he had the skills and the confidence. Somehow, Greenbaum makes the cut for the new group of lifeguards and offers several comedic bits dealing with the injury of his own penis, then with the penis of a dead man. These were the funniest moments of the film, but his character felt very out of place.
Johnson has the body of a refrigerator and all the charm of any leading man, making him a good choice for the franchise. However, his reinvention of Mitch Buchannon, played by Hasselhoff in the TV show, is incredibly dull. He's the father figure, rule follower and generic nice guy in the film, making his screen-time the best time to grab some popcorn. At least Hasselhoff brought some attitude and cockiness to the role.
The original TV show was full of soapy fantasies and romance. From broken engagements to sibling rivalry and montages of bikini-clad models, the show was famous for its vapid schmaltz and egregious display of butts and boobs. While there's plenty of abs and cleavage in the film, it never seems to have fun with the ridiculous trope. The filmmakers seem to be scared of coming off as sexist or exploitative, but that's exactly what we're expecting from the movie as long as it's equal-opportunity exploitation.
Baywatch is currently playing in theaters.
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