No one expects Shakespearean dialogue or plotting in a movie based on the jiggly TV series of the 1990s, but even the breeziest summer escapism shouldn’t be this stupid.

Dwayne Johnson is quickly established as the ultra-dedicated lifeguard chief of Emerald Bay. (If anything, he takes the role too seriously.) We also meet his team, including Alexandra Daddario, disgraced ex-Olympic swimmer Zac Efron, and the wannabes who aspire to join up—some for altruistic reasons, others so they can be near the great-looking guys and girls in swimsuits. A well-meaning sad sack (Jon Bass) starts to hyperventilate just being around a friendly blonde babe on the staff (swimsuit model Kelly Rohrbach).

But wait: there’s a mystery to be solved involving a greedy developer (played in one-note fashion by Priyanka Chopra) and corrupt local officials. This aspect of the film is so obvious that a fourth-grader could figure it out; somehow it took six people to craft this story and screenplay. It’s overflowing with jokey dialogue, but I can’t remember another recent movie where you can actually hear the one-liners falling flat with an audience, as I did.

I don’t think anyone who wants to see this movie demands great drama. They expect to see beautiful beach bodies and enjoy high-octane action. Baywatch supplies that, to some degree, but it’s weighed down with unnecessary story material and crude dialogue, which helps earn its R rating.

By the way, this piece of cinematic seaweed runs just shy of two hours. Surely some pruning by the writers, or director Seth Gordon, might have improved the end result.

Finally, I can report that there are cameos by the original TV series stars, David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. They aren’t terribly funny but they’re present and accounted for. I wish their presence added something worthwhile to the proceedings.

This movie ought to be brainless summer fun. I’m sorry it isn’t.


Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024