Baywatch adopts the philosophy that, not one, but two extended gags involving male genitals should be the bedrock of comedy. If that seems an exaggeration, consider the context for both scenes. The first arrives early into the film: Ronnie Greenbaum (John Bass), the slightly overweight finalist for trainee as a Baywatch lifeguard, finds himself standing at attention, as it were, when CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach, a bright spot), one of the ridiculously attractive women among the lifeguard crew, dislodges a Cheeto from his windpipe. Embarrassed, Ronnie lunges forward and finds himself (if you know what I mean) stuck between the slats of a beach chair.
The gag goes on for several minutes longer than it should, and it also has no bearing on what proceeds or follows it. That's the philosophy of the screenplay by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (taking their cues, of course, from the television series of the same name). That's also where the second extended and fruitless gag involving genitalia comes in. Superficially, it's a bit more important, taking place somewhere down the line of an investigation, but the punch line is that a different investigation - of a dead councilman's nether regions, basically, by a character who is a bit too vocal in his disgust - is unnecessary. It exists to exist.
The irony is either lost upon or, perhaps, ignored by the screenwriters and director Seth Gordon, who consistently go for the lowest common denominator, both in their humor and in the stitched-together plot, such as it is. The humor is aimed at the television show that spawned the film, although it's kind of unclear what the aim of that humor is. Alongside Ronnie and CJ on the Baywatch team are Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a disgraced Olympic swimmer of the Ryan Lochte variety, and Summer Quinn (Alexandria Daddario), who eventually becomes Matt's romantic interest but otherwise receives no characteristic attributes. Their superiors on the team are Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) and Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera).
Yes, the stars of the TV series make their required cameos, and yes, both appearances are beyond baffling in a movie that otherwise seems content to dismiss large chunks of the humor to focus on its plot, which in turn the screenwriters seem to care about less than the jokes. It's as endless a cycle as it sounds, with some mysterious deaths and a possible underworld of drug dealing and a real-estate scheme all coming together to create a mystery that is the opposite of engaging. It's also an excuse to include two major action sequences of the pyrotechnic variety, including a flaming boat and some fireworks, that are ruined by unfortunate visual effects.
None of it means much, although that itself wouldn't mean a lot if the film was more confident in its spirit of having simple, laid-back fun. The loaded scenario gives the 116-minute affair a sense of superfluous bloat, and although Johnson provides a spirited performance as usual, the cast mainly seems to exist for eye candy of the obvious variety. For all its summery, sun-drenched attitude, Baywatch shifts between dull and disingenuous with absurd ease.
Dwayne Johnson (Mitch Buchannon), Zac Efron (Matt Brody), Alexandra Daddario (Summer Quinn), Jon Bass (Ronnie Greenbaum), Kelly Rohrbach (CJ Parker), Priyanka Chopra (Victoria Leeds), Ilfenesh Hadera (Stephanie Holden), Yahya Abdul-Mateen III (Sgt. Ellerbee), Rob Huebel (Captain Thorpe), Hannibal Buress (Dave), Amin Joseph (Frankie), Jack Kesy (Leon), Oscar Nunez (Councilman Rodriguez), David Hasselhoff (The Mentor), Pamela Anderson (Casey).
Directed by Seth Gordon and written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, based on the series created by Michael Berk, Douglas Schwartz, and Gregory J. Bonann.
Rated R (language throughout, crude sexual content, graphic nudity).
Released on May 25, 2016.