Lots of things happened in the year 1989. The Berlin Wall finally came down. I was born. A bevy of beautiful lifeguards ran in slow motion on a beach, sparking a global cultural phenomenon that lasted long after the sun set over the balmy Los Angeles waters.
So it’s safe to say I was too young to fully grasp the impact those iconic red bathing suits had on American culture in real-time. But I’m more than aware now. I’ve done my due diligence, thanks to YouTube and “Borat.”
I’ve also sat through various other iconic TV shows-turned-films I wasn’t old enough to watch the first time around, including: “The A-Team,” “21 and 22 Jump Streets,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Dukes of Hazzard,” “The Brady Bunch,” ...even “Starsky & Hutch.” So I get it. “Baywatch” is a thing for people.
And maybe it’s the fact that I settled in to my seat at the movie theater on an absolutely abysmal, rainy New York day, but I was ready to be whisked away to the beaches of Miami for two hours of silly, stupid fun.
Still...I had two questions going into this film. “Did we need this?” and, similarly, “did we ask for this?”
Hollywood capitalizing on franchises from the past for reunions, reboots, and revivals is nothing new, but for every triumph (see: Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” universe), there’s a tragedy (again: “Starsky & Hutch”). But it makes sense why studios bank on people seeing shiny new versions of favorites from their youth, especially when it comes to the formative years of so many young, straight American men in the ‘90s.
My expectations for “Baywatch” were pretty low going in - admittedly, I find leads Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson irrefutably charming, but I knew the film wasn’t going to be exceedingly funny, raunchy, or smart.
And guess what? It wasn’t. It relied heavily on two recurring themes: dirty jokes, and Zac Efron pretty-boy jokes. Funny, perhaps, once or twice. Then it was just a test of my patience.
Sure, there was a plot, involving drug smuggling on a boat and the all-important task of recruiting new lifeguards to the beaches of Emerald Bay. But, much like its TV predecessor, it was hard to care about the actual plot.
It was mostly about those skimpy swimsuits, of which the movie version definitely delivered. But the thing is, for all the boner and boob jokes, “Baywatch” was charmingly innocent. And it was actually pretty...sweet. The cast was undeniably likeable, even the villain, played flawlessly by Priyanka Chopra. They did the best with what they were given, which should be taken as a compliment, I suppose.
But to answer one of my own questions: did we need this? No, we definitely did not. But we got it, and it’s this week’s dose of Hollywood nostalgia. “Baywatch” will never fully encapsulate the cultural impact the original show had, but I don’t think it was particularly trying to.
The storyline, humor, and characters were all simple, for sure, but it hearkened back to a time where “Baywatch” ruled the airwaves, porn was pay-per-view, and men hid their magazines under their beds. But the world is a different place these days.
To answer my second question: did we ask for this? Well, I suppose we’ll see, when the box-office numbers roll in. But I have a hard time imagining people running to the theaters to grab their seats. Perhaps they’ll stick to a slow-motion beach run. Life rafts not included.
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/Frank Masi