Hollywood continues its obsession with nostalgic, ironic reboots of ’80s TV shows with Baywatch, which remains the most ’80s TV show of all time despite being on in the ’90s.
For the uninitiated, Baywatch was an American show about sexy people (and David Hasselhoff) running on a beach in slow-motion. Hasselhoff played a character called Albie Ready, and the theme song was about him. There were also sub-plots about the lifeguards solving crimes including murders and drug smuggling, like a sexy version of The Famous Five. To this day, no one knows what gave lifeguards the legal authority to investigate felonies. It would be like giving tennis umpires a licence to kill.
This reboot takes that question and runs with it (in slow-motion). A rookie lifeguard (Zac Efron) arrives on the beach and points out that they’re not actually cops, and this becomes the only real joke; a post-modern piss-take of the TV show. Because it’s not the ’80s anymore. We have self-awareness and board shorts now, both of which prevent Baywatch from unironically working on the big screen. You’d basically be watching Top Gun.
So this affectionate mockery at least makes sense as a joke, which is more than can be said for any of the other jokes. The film opens with The Rock saving a guy who asks, “Are you Batman?” to which The Rock replies: “Yeah, except bigger. And browner.” Except he’s quite clearly neither. The plot makes even less sense. There’s something about a boat that’s on fire in the middle of the ocean, and interminably repetitive sleuthing that drags for two long hours, when it should clearly have just been 80 minutes of continuous slow-motion running. Friends was right. Always keep them running.
The other big deviation from the show is the R-rated comedy, with so many dick jokes they should have called it Baycrotch. But nothing can distract us from the movie’s laziness. Not even The Rock’s massive white teeth, or cameos from David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson that should never have seen the light of bay.
Baywatch is generally faithful to the crappiness of the TV show; the difference is this reboot acknowledges how much it sucks. But it still sucks, and watching a film that explicitly tells you how bad it is seems fundamentally insulting to a paying audience. That said, they paid to watch the Baywatch movie so surely that’s the point.