Think Baywatch and what springs to mind is David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson running along the beach in slow motion. Chronicling the adventures of a bunch of L.A. lifeguards, both on and off the beach, the TV series was a regular fixture on the tube throughout the nineties (running for 11 seasons, no less) and one of the most watched shows in the world at the time.
The fact that it was a feast of beefcake and bikini babes might have had something to do with that, but the episodes also featured some decent plots amidst all the bare flesh – something the writers of this big screen version haven’t overlooked.
When it comes to resurrecting a TV relic, the reflex is to go raunchy and red band (to use trailer terminology), but somewhat surprisingly, the Baywatch movie has more to offer than just jiggling cleavage and dick jokes – of which there are still plenty, make no mistake.
The boogie board and signature red swimwear has been passed to the dependable Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario (those eyes!) and Zac Efron (those abs!), who set out to bust a local drug syndicate after corpses and bags of meth begin washing up on the beach.
Some of the set pieces are inspired – an absurd fight in a nursery results in a SpongeBob mobile, baby’s bottle and nappy disposal being used as makeshift weapons; while a gross-out sequence in a morgue isn’t nearly as disturbing as the later sight of Efron undercover in drag! And the climax is literally explosive.
Unlike the recent CHIPS, Baywatch is totally in tune with the spirit of its inspiration, lampooning the series’ stereotypes while delivering a tongue-in-cheek comedy caper that’s elevated by some canny casting. It’s almost impossible to dislike Dwayne Johnson regardless of a film’s quality, and Efron once again demonstrates the flair for comedy he revealed in the Bad Neighbours films. Their combined charisma and chemistry is what makes Baywatch less painful than treading on a sea urchin, even if it is longer than it really needs to be at two hours.
The ample eye candy and lowbrow shenanigans will score highly with a target audience too young to remember the TV series, while those old enough to have tuned in will enjoy a cheeky nostalgia rush while waiting for the inevitable cameos by Pammy and the Hoff.
In cinemas: June 1, 2017
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario
Directed by: Seth Gordon