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Baywatch (2017)

Paramount Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 8/29/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/18/2017

The notion of feature films based on television shows has been around for decades. This sub-genre goes in cycles and every time that we think that its run its course, it starts up again. (I was convinced that it would peter out in the 80s. I was clearly mistaken.) While the quality of these movies has varied wildly, one thing which remains consistent is that the films attempt to update the tone of the show to feel more modern. This notion was taken to a new height with 2012's 21 Jump Street and it's sequel which arrived two years later. These movies were very meta and clever and showed that one can use the source material as the jumping off point for a lot of fun. Baywatch attempts to replicate this formula. Can it bring the fun to the beach?

Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) leads a group of lifeguards -- including CJ (Kelly Rohrbach) and Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera) -- who work to keep the beach safe, from both drownings and crime, and they take their jobs very seriously. It's time for the annual tryouts, and Ronnie (Jon Bass) and Summer (Alexandra Daddario) hope to join the ranks. Thrown into this mix is Matt Brody (Zac Efron), an Olympic Gold Medal-winning swimmer who has fallen on hard times and has agreed to be a lifeguard as part of his community service. As an advanced swimmer, Matt assumes that he can simply join the team, but Mitch has other ideas. Mitch doesn't like this brash young man and doesn't want anyone becoming a lifeguard unless they earn it. While this is going on, local hotel owner Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) is turning the beach into a haven for drug smuggling.

Let's go ahead and get this out of the way -- Baywatch does not work. Now, let's examine why. The film was clearly inspired by the success of the 21 Jump Street movies, as it has adopted a very similar formula. Take a successful show from the past, insert popular actors into the lead roles, pump up the R-rated humor and sit back and watch the money come rolling in. But, this didn't happen, as the film failed to make back its budget at the box office. So, again, let's break this down.

First of all, we'll go with something which is simply a theory. While we learn from the extras included here that Baywatch was one of the most successful TV shows of all time, as it's been viewed on six continents, that doesn't mean that it's a show which was actually good or respected. The show is famous for its slow-motion running and I doubt that many viewers took the show very seriously. Therefore, the show was already sort of a joke, so attempting to make it funny was redundant. But, this attempt at humor is only taken so far, as the film actually plays as a straight drama at times, including a fiery boat rescue and the infiltration of a lavish party. These scenes are juxtaposed with the morgue sequence, in which crude humor is forced on us and the whole thing is cringe-worthy. Baywatch follows the lead of 22 Jump Street by attempting to be meta, and the first time that Matt points out that lifeguards shouldn't fight crime, it's funny. But, the movie keeps hitting this joke over and over until it becomes annoying.

One would assume that the cast alone would carry Baywatch, but they fail to rescue the film. Johnson not only stars in the film, but he was also one of the producers, so he clearly believes in the project. And while there's nothing wrong with actors branching out, Johnson playing someone who curses a lot simply doesn't feel right. Efron is playing a character similar to the one which he essayed in the Neighbors films, but he's neither funny nor likable here. The rest of the cast is serviceable (save for Bass, who's simply annoying), but nothing special. Making a feature film of Baywatch isn't a bad idea, but this project clearly went in the wrong direction. The jokes fall flat, the action scenes are cliched, and even The Rock isn't his usual charming self. When the funniest thing in a movie is an aquarium statue, you know that something has gone wrong.

Baywatch did make me ask my wife why she doesn't have a bathing suit with a zipper on 4K UHD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 50 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. This is an impressive 4K presentation, as the daytime beach scenes are razor sharp and crystal clear, featuring skies which are almost painful to look at. The colors look great, most notably the reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail works well, as we can make out textures on objects, and the depth is impressive. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects highlight sounds coming from off-screen and show good separation. The surround sound effects stand out during the action sequences, and the explosions and music provide deep bass effects.

The extras for Baywatch are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. "Meet the Lifeguards" (22 minutes) takes us on set to follow the actors and to hear them describe their characters. In addition, the cast members talk about what it was like to work with another. "Continuing the Legacy" (9 minutes) offers clips from the original series, as those involved with the film discuss the success of the show and how it has been translated into the movie. "Stunts & Training" (9 minutes) implies that there may be some behind-the-scenes footage of the actors preparing for the film, but we only get interviews and clips. The Disc contains six DELETED & EXTENDED SCENES which run about 10 minutes. These are mostly short, incidental scenes, but there is are two scenes in which Ronnie has an odd run-in with a waiter.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long