An overzealous lifeguard struggles to control his arrogant new recruit, while a powerful drug dealer vies for control of the Bay.
1 hour 56 minutes
May 26, 2017
Director: Seth Gordon
Writers: Michael Berk
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario
Genre: Action Drama Comedy
Baywatch follows a team of lifeguards who go well beyond the duties of their job as they try to investigate a criminal plot. Aside from the plethora of tiresomely profane content, it’s a fun, lighthearted movie as long as it remains self-aware and openly ridiculous. It falls apart, however, when it tries to take its plot and characters too seriously.
Violence: Several people get punched in the head. One man is stated to have had his neck broken in multiple places, though this is not shown. There’s a graphic photo of a man with stab wounds and fake shark bites. Several characters shoot at each other, and one character is blown up by a large firework from a few feet away. The disembodied arm is briefly on screen.
Language/Crude Humor: I started off trying to keep track of the profanities that were used. About ten minutes into the movie, I gave up trying to count. F**k, d**k, s**t, and d**n are all used liberally throughout the movie. G*dd**n is used once, and b***h and a** are each used a couple of times. One character has melted fat drip onto his face, and many of the movie’s jokes revolve around sex in some way.
Drug/Alcohol Content: The story’s villain smuggles and sells drugs, and there are a few scenes with baggies filled with an unidentified drug. There’s also a scene in a club that shows lots of drinking, where one character has a few drinks to calm his nerves and another character gets drunk to the point of throwing up. Several characters drink champagne on a yacht.
Sexual Content: The movie takes place mainly on a beach, and it revels in its lack of modesty. Every single female on screen has cleavage showing, usually along with some other skin (most of the girls on the beach, for instance, are wearing bikinis), and the camerawork makes sure that their breasts are frequently prominent. The males are often shirtless. There’s a scene with a naked man in a shower whose buttocks are shown for a few seconds, and another scene where a male corpse’s genitals are seen for a substantial length of time. The dialogue contains plenty of innuendos and lines that either hint at, or blatantly refer to sex.
Spiritual Content: None.
Other Negative Content: Most of the negative content has been covered in the previous sections. The movie is a cesspool of profanity and dirty jokes, and it takes great pride in its own immorality.
Positive Content: There’s a message somewhere in there about not being selfish and learning to sacrifice yourself as part of a team, but it’s very forced and isn’t really dwelt upon for very long.
Baywatch is the type of movie that has two faces. On one face, it’s a frivolous, unrealistic story that’s fully aware of how ridiculous its premise is. On the other, it’s a cliché summer flick that somehow believes its overflowing stock of beach-movie tropes are worthy of real emotional connection.
The good news is that for as long as the movie acknowledges how ludicrous it is, it works quite well. The character interactions are pleasantly awkward, and there are just enough self-referential jokes to keep the tone light. The movie’s resolute refusal to take anything seriously leads to some clever scenes. The best being a fist fight that takes place in a baby’s nursery, which comes together beautifully. In this vein, the jokes are often genuinely funny, despite their overly sexual nature.
The bad news is that when Baywatch does miss its mark, it leads to some very cringe-worthy scenes. When you’ve been parodying the silliness of your own plot for half the movie, it isn’t going to work if you try to suddenly switch gears and play it straight. There are a scattering of moments where Baywatch tries to build real emotion, and real emotional stakes. The problem with this is that the scenes leading up to these moments were constantly lampshading themselves. As a result, the “serious” scenes fell flat while I waited for punchlines that never came.
Two more points of tension between the movie’s positive and negative traits were the character development and the humor. At the best of times, the characters bounce off each other in a way that both incorporates and perfectly complements the asinine plot. However, the movie also has a habit of treating these characters as pawns rather than people. One character, for instance, has an abrupt change of heart for no real reason. Two others have a good deal of time devoted to establishing them early on, only to be completely overlooked until almost the end of the film.
The most controversial thing about this movie, though, is probably its brand of humor. As said above, there are many points where it’s truly clever and funny. But it also reminded me a lot of the Jump Street movies in that there’s a boatload of profanity and a near-constant stream of sex-related jokes–particularly jokes that rely on shock value or innuendo.
The problem with such an approach, besides obvious moral concerns, is that jokes whose only comedic value lies in their blatantly sexual nature are similar to gross-out humor: they appeal to relatively specific audiences, and make anyone else uncomfortable. Plus, innuendos are usually such cheap jokes that they must be exceedingly clever to actually be funny. (Spoiler alert: the ones in Baywatch aren’t.) I’ve never found that this sort of commitment to being as crude as possible adds anything to a piece of media, and Baywatch didn’t change my mind.
The enjoyability of this film, therefore, depends very heavily on the audience. If you’re looking for something clean, Baywatch is about as far as you’ll get, and its inconsistency and shallowness make for an easily skippable show. If you don’t care about content, it’s simply a fun, dumb movie. While its self-referential style is very well done in places, the film has no cultural longevity, and certainly doesn’t want any.
+ Enjoyable soundtrack
+ Some good self-referential humor
+ Mostly keeps a light, playful tone
- Overuse of sexual content
- Excessive swearing
- Shaky character development
- Takes itself too seriously at times