It's an odd parallel to make, I know, but the new "Baywatch" film is a lot like a Rohit Shetty movie done right: easy on plot, high on silly humor, the obligatory dose of action and explosions, and the ability to laugh at itself.
But "Baywatch", of course, is set on a sun-soaked beach, so like the 90s show on which it's based, expect lots of good-looking people in very little clothes bouncing about in the sand. Dwayne Johnson slips into David Hasselhoff's trunks as Mitch Buchannon, the leader of an elite group of lifeguards, and Zac Efron is Matt Brody, an arrogant, disgraced Olympic swimmer that he is forced to add to his team. Johnson lobs one-liners at Efron at breakneck speed "What's up, One Direction?" the bulk of his barbs aimed at Efron's 'pretty boy' looks. It's this merciless banter that triggers the film's biggest laughs.
The sight gags, meanwhile, are hit and miss. Director Seth Gordon fully exploits his R-rating with a never-ending supply of F-bombs and penis jokes. I'd have paid to see Pahlaj Nihalani's face while he was watching the film for certification. In one scene, Jon Bass' character, a bumbling wannabe lifeguard, gets his privates stuck in a deckchair. Another involves Efron probing a dead man's scrotum. Depending on where you stand on crude slapstick humor, you'll either be laughing uncontrollably, or you won't know where to look.
By way of story, Mitch enlists his gang of swimsuit straining athletic beauties to help him sniff out a drug ring operating on the beach that points to la-di-dah businesswoman Victoria Leeds, played by Priyanka Chopra in low-cut slinky gowns and high heels. Cradling a champagne flute and purring threats to our earnest beach-loving heroes, she's a real hoot as the film's villain, although a tad underused.
In an interesting update on the television show which was famous for its gratuitous shots of busty female lifeguards running in slow-motion, the makers of the film indulge in a more equal opportunity approach. So while there's no way you could make a "Baywatch" film without hot women in tight red swimsuits, there are as many loving close-ups of Efron's shirtlessness as there are of Kelly Rohrbach and Alexandra Daddario. The same approach is extended to the humor too, with Efron sportingly taking the bulk of the 'dumb hunk' jokes.
A big reason that the film doesn't completely derail despite clearly pushing the boundaries of taste and humor is that it's never mean-spirited like so many adult comedies tend to be. Sure some of it is crude and dumb, but there's an innocence to it that even makes the characters endearing at times. It also helps that the film is less than 2 hours long.
I'm not saying it's a great film, or that it's even good. But the 'bromance' between Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron is very enjoyable, and Priyanka Chopra more than makes her presence felt in her first American film. Like junk food, "Baywatch" is hard to resist even though you know it has no nutritional value.
I'm going with two-and-a-half out of five. I'll admit I had a good laugh. More than a few actually.
Rating: 2.5 / 5