The first reviews for Baywatch have very little in terms of positive feedback. Sure, critics acknowledge there’s at least some good to come out of a film directed by Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) and starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. But what works seems lost in the “endless profusion of F-bombs,” “gay panic gags,” “thankless” roles for the female actors, and what amounts to a generally “sloppy” TV-to-movie remake.
It’s “the rare movie that even the Teflon-coated, thousand-watt charisma of Dwayne Johnson can’t save,” EW’s Chris Nashawaty writes. “It’s possible that this sloppy, scattershot nod to ’90s jiggle TV was inevitable. After all, we’d already cycled through such wafer-thin small-screen flotsam as Charlie’s Angels, The A-Team, and CHiPs. Freakin’ CHiPs?! But apparently the barrel of disposable retro television properties is as bottomless as Nietzsche’s abyss.”
Johnson takes over David Hasselhoff as Mitch, the leader of a team of lifeguards determined to protect their beach from a businesswoman’s criminal plot. Thrown into the mix is Matt, a brash former Olympic swimmer played by Efron. With a cast that includes Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass, Ilfenesh Hadera, and a few cameos from the original Baywatch stars, the film was pegged to feature “‘this is my beach b–‘ rated-R humor,” but critics report “the picture has nothing to say.”
See more reviews of Baywatch below.
Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“Back in 1995, The Brady Bunch Movie showed that there was a clever, postmodern way to turn our mothballed childhood memories into irreverent satire. But with the exception of the first 21 Jump Street, Hollywood seems to be beyond the point of putting any effort into these things. Aside from some mild laughs that come from the alpha-dog friction between Johnson and Efron, Damian Shannon and Mark Swift’s script is a lazy barrage of sad-trombone product-placement gags and red-band boobs-and-boners jokes. Perhaps even more depressing is the realization that this current retread plague won’t be ending anytime soon. Leaving the theater, I saw in my newsfeed that The CW had just greenlit a reboot of Dynasty. God help us all.”
Owen Gleiberman (Variety)
“Baywatch, as a series, now looks jaw-droppingly goofy and harmless (actually, it did then too), and the movie would have been smart to satirize the show’s innocuous underworld drama and cheeseball male gaze, playing up the dated absurdity of it all. But no: The film’s director, Seth Gordon (Identity Thief), and its screenwriters, Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, have glommed Baywatch onto the theme of the moment: namely, that a bunch of good-looking SoCal lifeguards, devoted to keeping their beach a safe cool magical place, are just like — wait for it! — a family.”
Frank Scheck (The Hollywood Reporter)
“That the film’s guiding creative ethos was apparently to push the envelope and go for an ‘R’ rating becomes painfully clear. The endless profusion of F-bombs seems to indicate that the screenwriters must have thought they would be paid per use. The raunchy humor extends to gay panic gags strangely similar to the ones found in the recent, similarly misbegotten CHIPs; Baywatch strains for a vulgarity that never comes remotely close to being funny. Unless, that is, you find the idea of Zac Efron manipulating a dead man’s genitals hysterical.”
Alonso Duralde (The Wrap)
“A summer franchise movie that can’t decide if it wants to be a hard-R bawdy comedy, a d-bag-comes-of-age tale or a fairly unironic reboot of the glossy TV show (which ran from 1989-2001), Baywatch fails at all three, despite the best efforts of the perennially game Johnson and Zac Efron, two performers who have subverted audiences’ assumptions about their limitations and have emerged as solid comic actors. It’s too bad they’re saddled with a film that somehow manages to fail to live up to the low expectations one would have of a movie called Baywatch.”
Scott Mendelson (Forbes)
“Baywatch is a crushing disappointment and a waste of quite a bit of talent. It is technically a comedic farce based on a dramatic television series, yet it is shockingly unfunny and hopelessly bland. The picture has nothing to say, either about the show on which it is based or anything else of value. The likes of Dragnet, The Brady Bunch, 21 Jump Street and (to the extent that this counts) Galaxy Quest offered varying degrees of mockery directed at their source material while also providing sharp commentary about just why the property was appealing to the masses. Baywatch has no reason to be based on the television show aside from the brand name and gains nothing by its quasi-meta existence as an R-rated farce based on a straight-faced action drama. All of this would be forgivable if the movie were funny. But it’s not.”
Steve Rose (The Guardian)
“Overshadowed by this alpha-male chest-off, the women are given thankless, almost interchangeable roles as love interests and swimsuit models. Sports Illustrated regular Kelly Rohrbach plays the Pamela Anderson character, though ‘character’ is a generous description. The swimwear couture hasn’t moved on since the 90s, either: cut so high at the hip you wonder if there was a lycra shortage; unzipped at the front to show maximum cleavage. Even Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra, the underused villain of the piece, looks like she was contractually obliged to show as much flesh as permissible.”
Brian Truitt (USA Today)
“Everything one would expect in a Baywatch movie — cleavage, bouncing body parts, constant flexing and the excessive use of slo-mo — is present. (Plus, a couple of the old TV cast members show up for cameos.) Yet the remake yearns to be both sendup farce and straight action film, tripping along the way and failing to grasp either. When the plastic aquarium version of the usually ultra-charismatic Johnson gets more laughs than the real deal, there’s something seriously wrong.”
Matt Goldberg (Collider)
“I don’t blame 21 Jump Street for the existence of Baywatch. Studios only see formulas, not how the pieces work together. They saw an R-rated comedy based off a late-80s/early-90s kitschy TV show, and one should work just as well as another. Unfortunately, whereas 21 Jump Street knows how to manage weird jokes, subvert action tropes, and build a worthwhile story between its two leads, Baywatch has no idea what to do beyond saying ‘f–‘ a lot and having Dwayne Johnson rag on Zac Efron. The movie feels like an odd mish-mash of scripts, with one story being more of a buddy flick while another tries to create a team dynamic. Perhaps there’s some version of Baywatch that works, but it’s not the one director Seth Gordon ended up with.”
Baywatch will hit theaters on May 25.