One comes away from BAYWATCH wondering many things, none of them good, one of them why Spongebob Squarepants had to be involved. Based on the television phenomenon that swept the world a few decades back, this cinematic leap is neither faithful to the original, nor is it a loving spoof of same. It fails to find a consistent tone, any sense of pacing, or even a coherent story. Instead, it is a mishmash of puerile humor, egregious comic timing, and so many genitalia jokes that one ponders the self-esteem surrounding such things of the writers involved in formulating them.
We return to Emerald Bay, where Mitch (Dwayne Johnson) keeps swimmers safe while looking like a superhero. Rumors fly that he has cured the common cold. Along with CJ (Kelly Rohrbach), who always looks like she’s running in slow motion, and Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera), who is the serious one because she always wears the one-piece swimsuit, he is master of all he surveys until the new kid arrives. That would be Matt (Zac Efron), the hot-shot Olympic gold medalist whose on the skids thanks to his impetuous nature and me-first attitude. Naturally, they don’t get along, but Mitch is forced to take him on as a lifeguard trainee, along with babalicious Summer (Alexandra Daddario), and the doughy, but determined tech geek, Ronnie (Jon Bass), for PR purposes.
The story, which is merely an excuse for zipping along on jet skis and showing off a surfeit of truly splendid abs, involves a glamorously slinky drug-runner (Pryanka Chopra) with designs on privatizing the bay. Of course, only the lifeguards notice anything amiss with the new designer drugs washing up on the beach, or with the bodies that start washing ashore. Now, don’t get me wrong. Silliness is a perfectly respectable film genre, and reality need play no part, but in exchange for that suspension of disbelief, you have to give me something in return. Something entertaining. Something that will make me laugh even if I feel ridiculous for finding it funny.
Alas, this is not the case.
Of the jokes that come thick and fast and without mercy, about 10 percent of them land, so kudos to whichever of the credited six writers responsible for them. There rest is exaggerated ogling, spluttering, grunting, shouting, and cliché-driven dialogue rendered in a disjointed script that almost always misses the basics of set-up and follow through, while also finding itself bereft of even a trace of flair or panache. Johnson and Efron are no slouches when it comes to parodying themselves with gusto. When the scene does not sabotage them by lingering too long, or burdening them with lines that are just not funny the first time, let alone the umpteenth, their star power and charisma is evident. Alas, there is only so much even they can do with this morass. Instead we have an object lesson in why brevity is the soul of wit. For every whiff of magic when Mitch finds himself on the wrong side of the devil’s urchin, or when Matt fails to grasp anything said to him with a deadpan intensity that explains the depths of his obliviousness, there is the prolonged stench of pointless bouts of ruckus to be endured. Further alas, the ruckus, and without the saving grace sense of irony, veers into heavy drama. Whoever though that was a good idea needs to surrender the Writer’s Guild Card in his possession.
Cameos by the original Mitch and CJ (David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson) pop up, as is de rigeur, though having Hasselhoff discuss the sequel with Johnson in one of the outtakes featured over the credits should strike terror in the hearts of cinephiles everywhere. Unless, that is, the powers that be decide to gift us with a clever spoof instead of another steaming pile of, ahem, kelp.