‘Baywatch’ drowns in bad jokes and worse action

Dwayne Johnson rocks his Baywatch outfit.

One and a half stars

Baywatch Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario. Directed by Seth Gordon. Rated R. Now playing citywide.

Mocking cheesy ’90s lifeguard drama Baywatch was fun, because the people creating the show were generally not in on the joke. The show starring David Hasselhoff as dashing lifeguard Mitch Buchannon took itself as seriously as possible for an action drama about pretty people in bathing suits solving crimes. So making Baywatch into an actual comedy sort of defeats the purpose. Now everyone involved is trying hard to make the audience laugh, while also half-heartedly stringing together a crime story—and failing miserably at both.

Star Dwayne Johnson seems incapable of being anything less than likeable, but even he can’t do much to shore up this movie’s terrible script. Taking over for Hasselhoff (who makes the requisite cameo appearance, along with fellow old-school Baywatch star Pamela Anderson) as Mitch, Johnson mostly plays the straight man to Zac Efron as Matt Brody, who has been reimagined as a disgraced Olympic swimmer forced to work as a lifeguard to fulfill a community service sentence. The Ryan Lochte-like Brody is selfish and inconsiderate, but straight-arrow Mitch regards the lifeguard crew as a family (much like a certain fast and furious franchise also starring Johnson), and Brody has to learn to become a team player and put others’ needs above his own.

He also has to fondle the genitals of a dead man, because this is a gross-out comedy crossed with a C-level action movie. The lowbrow humor is lazy and repetitive, and the action scenes are flat-out terrible, with some shoddy special-effects work that should never have made it into a major studio blockbuster. The plot, featuring Quantico’s Priyanka Chopra as an excessively motivated villain (she’s a sleazy real-estate developer and a drug kingpin), drags on for nearly two hours, and the characters aren’t even remotely as well-defined as their abs. Really the only thing the new Baywatch has going for it is the same thing the old Baywatch had going for it: a bunch of attractive stars in skimpy attire. At least back then they were easier to laugh at.

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