Review: Bad jokes leave lifeguards floundering out of their depth in Baywatch

Zac Efron plays Matt Brody and Dwayne Johnson plays Mitch Buchannon in Baywatch. Picture Paramount/F

Zac Efron plays Matt Brody and Dwayne Johnson plays Mitch Buchannon in Baywatch. Picture Paramount/Frank Masi - Credit: PA

The big screen film of one of the world's favourite TV shows is disappointing, with flimsy humour and a meanness of spirit that leaves a foul taste in the mouth.

Baywatch (15)


The big screen version of what was once the world's favourite TV show is, like most Hollywood versions of TV favourites, an act of affectionate desecration.

The script lovingly sends up the silly cliches and tropes of the show, yet cannot hide a meanness of spirit which makes the whole enterprise seem foul. Is it possible to be disappointed by a film version of Baywatch? Surely with Baywatch the disappointment is built in? Yet honestly, I was.

I thought the cast had promise and the premise of having them take on local drug dealers made a kind of sense. The inherent joke about the show was the improbability of making up plots week in weeks out, year in year about a bunch of life guards.

But the humour is ridiculously flimsy, a lethal combination of crude sex jokes and topical references. Some of the jokes – Johnson constantly calling Efron by the names of boy band members – probably went out of date the day after they were written.

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What's so dispiriting about the film is that they've got the smut all wrong. The whole point of the TV show was the bouncing and jiggling. In the film everybody jogs about in diminished clothing, but knowingly. In 2017 we're too good for that.

It would be fine but the film replaces leering smuttiness with some really scummy low brow comedy sequences such as vomiting in pools, trapped erections or playing around with a dead man in a morgue. Plus, it just seems wrong to have these characters use the F word quite so much.

Baywatch, like other big screen TV adaptations, seems motivated by a fierce anti-nostalgia, a belief that the past is just a place populated by sad losers who never had 2,000 followers on twitter.

They make films of TV series because they feel they must, because it is known quantity and there is security in that, but once they've got them they have no use for them, they have to destroy them, rubbish them for the sin of not being right now.

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