Meet Mitch Buchannon, a lifeguard who's friends with everybody at the beach. Well, except for his lifeguarding recruits when they don't take the job as serious as he, as well as his superior, Don Thorpe, who thinks he goes overboard in his job sometimes, essentially letting security guards and officers sit back with their burgers and sunglasses, or they would if they didn't always try to get to the scene of the crime first. Then there's a chance for three new lifeguards to come on, one of which is Matt Brody, a former Olympic champion in swimming but has to do this job on probation for a number of juvenile activities, especially after his fall from grace when he got the title "Vomit Comet". He's put in kind of by default despite Mitch trying everything to show he's not competent, albeit unfairly since there are the other contestants he has to watch for, and after the tryouts, it turns out there's something shady going on at the beach and while lifeguards may have been created to save people from drowning, Baywatch was created to save people from guns and gangs.
One of my biggest complaints about the CHiPs movie was that it had potential to be a great mystery. Five rogue agents that could be anyone? That had the potential for a Hercule Poirot mystery. Baywatch isn't really designed like that. There's a mystery of cargo and drugs washing up on shore but it's having more fun with the fact that The Rock and Troy are teamed up and even competing to see who's the correct lifeguard. There is a slight guessing game because we suspect there's someone we've met working for the main antagonist
It's a lot like CHiPs, but I think I liked this one better for two reasons: It's a cop movie on a beach, which I know is based off of its source TV show but is a nice switch-it-up. The other is its cast of lifeguards. They're fun to be with. And not just Johnson and Efron, aka Mitch and Matt. There are the two other new recruits, Summer and Ronnie (played by the always likeable and serious Alexandra Daddario and an actor named Jon Bass who has a shy personality to him that makes him a scaredy cat we root for) and C.J. and Stephanie. They altogether feel like a line of undercover cops even when they're not.
I know this might have also been thanks to the TV show, but the idea of lifeguards becoming their own independent police force is an idea that I hope never dies down. Official police forces are all filled with regulations and laws and a feeling of achieved status, whereas the lifeguards end up doing some entertaining shenanigans, including a rather funny attempt to do an autopsy and hiding in the freezers. And by the second half, it gets to a dramatic level that did not make me cry, but amused me. It was a bit heartless, though. When these suspects are set free not because of lack of evidence any more than the anger that the lifeguards are trying to do more than they were meant to, it's a bit upsetting.
But don't think there aren't a few front-end jokes. Personally, I don't like it when a movie zooms into a breast and plays a slow song that would be better for a slow-song dance than a stare, and most of these end up at the expense of Ronnie, but he's a character that has a shown inferiority to the other lifeguards and the fact that no one is really mean to him when he might do something embarrassing helped me kind of get by. And one fatal flaw I found was when a character is trapped and caged and sent underwater, we don't actually see how he escaped his cage. That part bugged me. But at least it has a Dwayne Johnson character that's as ridiculous in the final confrontation as his character in Central Intelligence. He's what this movie needed to work.
Baywatch has the sophistication of a history report I did back in fifth grade, but the presentation was amiable, the climax is good enough, and the scenes that would have censorship if this was a YouTube sketch movie are not annoying. It's like going to the beach expecting jellyfish and only having a few rocks to avoid instead.