By now you know that Baywatch sh*t the bed on Memorial Day weekend. A lot of people decided not to see Baywatch, whether it’s because they don’t care about Baywatch as a thing or because there really is something to the “one buff guy, one schlubby guy” paradigm (think about it: Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum and Zac Efron/Seth Rogen works, but The Rock/Zac Efron doesn’t work. Lainey thinks it’s because too much muscle in one movie makes men feel emasculated which is like, how f*cking fragile can you be? But also, she might be right). But whatever the reason, the people who decided not to see Baywatch are smart, because Baywatch is dumb. Very dumb.
Zac Efron, who looks like his muscles have been vacuum-sealed inside a skin sack and all his blood sucked out, stars as Matt Brody, an Olympic gold medalist who hits rock bottom after vomiting in the pool during a relay. Matt is dumb and selfish and everyone who meets him immediately hates him—he’s basically playing Ryan Lochte except without the part where we thought Lochte was fun for a second. Since he needs a job, Matt gets a place with the Baywatch, which brings him under the command of Mitch Buchannon who is no longer David Hasselhoff but is now
the future president The Rock.
Dwayne Johnson’s easy charm almost makes up for the fact that the best joke he gets in the movie is calling Efron “High School Musical”. I don’t understand a comedy movie that saddles Johnson with such an un-fun part. He can be so funny! It’s not like Central Intelligence is a masterpiece, but at least that movie has the sense to let Johnson ham it up a little. But the only joke he gets in Baywatch is calling Efron a series of boy band names. And while it seems like he—and everyone else—is having fun picking on Efron, it’s not enough to drive the movie, especially since there isn’t really anything else to provide humor.
The most consistently funny aspect is Jon Bass, a Book of Mormon veteran, who plays the schlubby lifeguard Ronnie. The jokes are lowbrow and Ronnie is typically the butt of them, but Bass is funny and he makes the most of even the stupidest jokes. Without him, the movie would be unwatchable, and one wonders what Baywatch could have been if the central comedy pairing was Johnson and Bass. Hannibal Buress also pops up for a small part, and he can make ANYTHING funny, so his few minutes on screen—mostly with Bass—almost trick you into thinking Baywatch might turn out okay. (Someone should make a movie starring Buress, Jason Mantzoukas, and Kathryn Hahn, the comedy second-stringer all-stars.)
Baywatch is clearly going for a 21 Jump Street thing, but there isn’t nearly enough self-referential humor, and no one is willing to look as stupid as Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill do in that movie (except Jon Bass, who deserves better). In fact there’s kind of a weird vibe in Baywatch, like The Rock and Efron are too precious to be mocked, so they can never be the butt of the joke, which is odd because both have had no problem looking foolish for a laugh in other contexts.
It’s like someone got ahold of a funnier script and toned it down because the butch dudes were the punchline and butch dudes can’t be mocked for whatever reason. There are six different credited writers, including Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant of Reno 911 fame. I would LOVE to see their undiluted vision of a Baywatch movie. I bet it would have included a sweet sax solo. At the very least, there’s no way it would be any worse than the movie we got.