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May 31, 2017
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The Baywatch reboot is pretty dumb. It’s an action-packed lifeguard caper overflowing with cheap dick jokes, jiggling body parts, and likable characters with demi-god physiques. But it’s fun stuff, and should you check your judgment (and intelligence) at the theater door, it can provide a boatload of laughs—the kind expected of a ’90s television cult classic reboot.

Mich Buchanan (Dwayne Johnson) is the leader of an elite troop of lifeguards that watch over Emerald Bay. By his side are the beautiful CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach) and Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera), two leggy stunners who are capable of filling out a swimsuit and making it runway-ready. Their not-so-humble existence of saving drowning victims is disrupted by the arrival of the brash Matt Brody (an ultra-ripped Zac Efron), a decorated pro swimmer whose career was ended by a vomiting accident during a crucial meet. Rounding out this kooky group of beach bums are the feisty Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) and the awkward Ronnie (Jon Bass), newbie lifeguards still under training but have a dedicated heart for the job. And when a designer drug starts spreading in and around the area, the team starts investigating Victoria Leads (Priyanka Chopra), the rich and powerful owner of a fancy country club.

Although it might be enjoyable to watch The Rock and crew go beyond the call of duty and fight crime, the film lacks the genius of its forefather, 21 Jump Street, a TV reboot that used the medium to espouse a hilarity hinged on a hyper self-awareness. Baywatch’s over-the-top jet ski chases, inside jokes, and self-deprecating jabs at its own existence can get tiring, especially when the material is in the hands of a very capable cast simply making the most with what they’ve been given. Johnson has been dubbed as franchise Viagra in the past, but despite all the penis punch lines, everything here feels rather flaccid. He and Efron flex their comedic (and actual) muscles so much that it almost helps save this sinking ship. They share an onscreen dynamic not far from the most famous buddy cop frenemies of yesteryear and it’s a treat to witness. Efron, with his boy band good-looks and knack for naivete, fits perfectly into the role of slapstick sidekick. He has the kind of stupid—albeit, devilishly handsome—face needed for navigating this brand of campy, crass humor. And for the most part, the supporting cast turn in believable performances that help them tread these shallow waters.

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The important question, however, is what was the purpose of reviving this franchise for cinemas in the first place? There seems to be none. Yes, it’s pure entertainment, but there were no innovations made. It’s the kind of outdated, two hour-long drivel that anyone with a bag of popcorn and time to spare will mindlessly devour. And maybe, for some, that’s enough. When the tide finally turns, boobs and butts and oily abs in slow motion will suffice.

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