Baywatch

Sand, surf and finely sculpted beach bods — that about sums up the positive attributes of Baywatch, which otherwise leaves moviegoers with the cinematic equivalent of second-degree sunburn and saltwater in the eyes.

In some ways, this lackluster big-screen adaptation of the cheesy 1990s television series delivers on its low expectations, even if its sophomoric humor is targeted at a young demographic that might not even remember the source material.

For those needing a refresher, the concept goes behind the scenes with lifeguards at fictional Emerald Bay, headed up by Mitch Buchanan (Dwayne Johnson). During the annual rigorous vetting of new recruits to the team, he clashes with the arrogant Brody (Zac Efron), a disgraced former Olympic swimmer who needs some community service hours.

Once Brody falls in line, he finds himself ill-equipped to handle the rigors of the job, especially when the overzealous Mitch continually ventures outside of his jurisdiction to flex his detective muscle. The latest example is a drug deal that leads to the murder of a councilman on a boat, a subsequent cover-up, and the investigation of a corrupt resort owner (Priyanka Chopra).

The crude and uninspired screenplay can’t decide whether it wants to poke fun, pay tribute, or simply re-create the shallow and cheesy nature of the show. But it never really succeeds at any of them. As Brody exclaims early on: “Are you guys being serious right now? I honestly can’t tell.”

At any rate, the film manages some intermittently amusing sight gags and one-liners, yet most of the raunchy jokes are stale and obvious.

Johnson and Efron — the latter channeling a “Jersey Shore” refugee — each make an effort to elevate the subpar material, although they doesn’t capture the same mismatched buddy chemistry that propelled 21 Jump Street, for example. As the primary female lifeguards, Kelly Rohrbach and Alexandra Daddario are called upon to model their wetsuits, and not much more.

While director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) captures the sun-drenched scenery, David Hasselhoff shows up in a throwaway cameo to pass the torch, and there are some requisite slow-motion dramatic rescues for those seeking nostalgia.

Appropriately enough, Baywatch is a parade of chiseled abs, tanned torsos, and jiggling cleavage. However, the film drowns in its convoluted and melodramatic storyline, apparently unaware that that’s not what we came to see.

 

Rated R, 116 minutes.