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Baywatch (Blu-ray Review)

25 Aug, 2017 By: John Latchem

Street 8/29/17
Box Office $58.06 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $48.99 UHD BD
Rated ‘R’ for language throughout, crude sexual content and graphic nudity. Unrated version also available.
Stars Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Priyanka Chopra, Jon Bass, Ilfenesh Hadera, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Rob Huebel, Hannibal Buress, David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson.

Basing movies off of TV shows is nothing new. Nor is poking fun at the source material. But after the “Jump Street” films scored critical and box office acclaim, it comes as no surprise that others would try to emulate that winning formula of adapting cheesy but earnest 1980s and 1990s TV shows into movies by parodying them.

The CHiPs movie tried this earlier this year, and it was only a matter of time before someone got around to doing the same to “Baywatch,” the cult classic 1989-2001 show about lifeguards saving lives by day and occasionally stopping criminals in their spare time.

The Baywatch movie hits the key beats of the TV show: beach rescues, gorgeous men and women running in slow motion, and criminal capers washing ashore in need of solving. To this the film adds a layer of raunch that now comes with the genre.

The story involves lifeguard team leader Mitch (Dwayne Johnson) clashing with a new recruit Brody (Zac Efron), who is handed the job because he’s a former Olympic athlete. Mitch tries to make Brody learn what it truly means to be a Baywatch lifeguard when drugs start popping up on the beach, seemingly linked to a local club whose owner (Priyanka Chopra) who wants to privatize the beach. When the body count starts piling up, Mitch takes it upon himself to investigate, despite almost everyone around him pointing out that lifeguards aren’t cops.

One of the key differences between “Jump Street” and the attempts by CHiPs and Baywatch to apply a similar formula to their material is that the “Jump Street” movies had no problem bashing the premise of the show — older cops passing as high school or college students — for comedy because it was so absurd. The foundational focus of “Baywatch” and “CHiPs” — lifeguards saving lives and motorcycle officers patrolling roadways — are actually rather noble, leaving filmmakers to either rework the premise to fit their needs, as was done with CHiPs, or add excessive amounts of dirty jokes.

Conceptually, the lifeguards as crime solvers is the film’s best comedy hand, but it’s relegated to more of a running gag until it needs to pop up as a plot point, rather than serving as a solid foundation for the story. In the bonus materials, the filmmakers admit they have too much love for the original series to disrespect it, so the characters are played more or less straight with the gags popping up for them to react to. There’s a lot more emphasis on visual style, though the film does look great.

The cast does a fine job with the material they’re given, especially Johnson, whose natural charisma makes him a perfect fit for a “Baywatch” setting. The characters bounce off each other well and most of the humor involving their interactions works. The spirit of the show emerges more or less intact, and the end result is an entertaining diversion for a couple of hours.

The Blu-ray offers an extended cut that runs about five minutes longer, and this is the version to watch, even if some of the added scenes don’t add much. Other moments add some details to the story and characters, such as an early scene that better immerses the beach club into the story than the theatrical cut was able to do. The disc also includes another 10 minutes of deleted and extended scenes.

Also included are three behind-the-scenes featurettes running about 40 minutes total. The longest is a 22-minute profile of the cast. The 10-minute “Continuing the Legacy” featurette gives a chance to for the filmmakers to reflect on what they liked about the old show and how they wanted to pay homage to it with the movie. Finally, there’s a nine-minute featurette about the film’s stunts and action.

About the Author: John Latchem

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