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we got movie sign | by maryann johanson

Baywatch movie review: sun’s out, dumb’s out

Baywatch red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
A beach-slap to anyone with a brain. Embodies everything that is wrong with Hollywood today. It is proudly dumb. It is proudly sexist. It is proudly pointless.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

These are the shoals upon which critics are broken.tweet Those gently susurrating waves? The bastard power of water to wear everything down. Those lovely soft grains of sand on the beach? Every one of them a thoughtful film lover who has dedicated her- or himself to considering cinema, now ground down into a tiny tiny pebble.

Baywatch is a beach-slap fuck-you to anyone with a brain.tweet Your gonads may be engaged if you are a heterosexual man (or a homosexual woman, though that will be accidental) who has not graduated from a tween sexuality in which disembodied boobs and (female) asses are the hottest thing you can imagine, and hope to one day be able to touch with your very own hands. But your brain can go take a flying leap, because it will not be required here… and Baywatch thinks that’s a plus.

“Why do the guys get to wear so much more clothes than us, d’ya think?”

“Why do the guys get to wear so much more clothes than us, d’ya think?”tweet

I feel like I’ve been saying this — I’ve certainly been thinking it — a lot lately, but this movie embodies everything that is wrong with Hollywood today. Baywatch would not exist if Hollywood studios did not believe that picking up something from the past — no matter how good or bad it was, no matter how fondly or poorly it is remembered — makes for a surefire hit, no matter how many times this has been disproven. Because Name Recognition, as if moviegoers respond with pavlovian drooling to any and all titles merely because we have been exposed to them before. (Baywatch is based, of course, on the crapiffic 1990s TV show that was among the first to take advantage of proliferating cable channels that had countless hours of airtime to fill, and that weren’t terribly discriminating about how they filled those hours.)

This is a movie rated as suitable only for adults, but even the “humor” exists on a tween level, at its most sophisticated.
tweet

But there’s more that’s awful, and prototypical Hollywood circa 2017. Baywatch is proudly dumb. It is proudly sexist. It is proudly pointless. It required the work of six overpaid screenwriters — whatever they were paid, it was too much; roll call of shame: Jay Scherick and David Ronn (who both wrote The Smurfs and The Smurfs 2), Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (who both contributed to Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Hell Baby), and Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (who both wrote Freddy Vs. Jason) — to come up with “mangina” as an insult, awkward “jokes” about inconvenient boners, and gay panic. (This is a movie rated as suitable only for adults, but even the “humor” exists on a tween level, at its most sophisticated.) It employs the “talents” of director Seth Gordon, who once made a charming little documentary about videogames called The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and then instantly sold out to the studios to make such junk as Four Christmases and Identity Thief. Here, Gordon seems intent on proving how very very heterosexual he is with his auteurist dedication to slowing panning up women’s bodies — the less dressed, the better — as often as possible, and to letting the camera hover around the breasts of Alexandra Daddario (San Andreas, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters), Kelly Rohrbach, and Ilfenesh Hadera (Chi-Raq) as often as possible, while never ever similarly fetishizing the impressive physical specimens that are Dwayne Johnson (The Fate of the Furious, Moana) and a newly pumped up Zac Efron (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising). As ever in Hollywood, in Baywatch, women bodies are decorative, appreciated only for how they look, while men’s bodies are either purely functional or absolutely hilarious,tweet ie the very slightly chubby new Baywatch recruit played by Jon Bass (Jane Wants a Boyfriend), whose nudity is funny, see because he’s soft, not sculpted.

“I think I see the last scraps of my dignity drifting out to sea...”

“I think I see the last scraps of my dignity drifting out to sea…”tweet

Men as sexy, as eye candy? Men made love to by the camera? That would be nice. I would imagine that many women (and more than a few men) would really appreciate some lingering cinematic ogling on Johnson’s pecs and Efron’s baby-blues dear god. Ladies (and those few gentlemen), you will have to grab whatever leering you can manage on the fly, because this movie will not indulge you.

All that exists here as supposed entertainment are women’s bodies to male-gaze at and men’s bodies to not-gaze at because that would be totally gay. There is literally nothing else of note here even in a movie about county lifeguards — in California like the show? somewhere else? the movie was shot in Florida and is set in a fictional town, so who knows — who think they are cops or private detectives or something. You’d think there’d be the potential for humor in that. But unlike the 21 Jump Street movies, which were razor-sharp smart about the cheesy nostalgia of their source material and tongue-in-cheek cynical about the reasons it got rebooted as movies, Baywatch has no idea how to toe that line. Something something about drugs washing up on the beach and a lady real estate developer* who is buying everyone out, or whatevs. (*Indian actor Priyanka Chopra… portrays a South American villain… named Victoria Leeds. Because brown people are interchangeable but should always have Anglo names, I guess. But at least there’s a bit of diversity here? *lolsob*tweet)

No, wait, there is something else here: the utterly tiresome male fantasy about how dorky boys deserve hot girls, and get them, and how asshole jerks deserve perfect gorgeous women, and get them. Baywatch is, if nothing else — and it is nothing else — the absolute epitome of boy-centered Hollywoodtweet: no matter what sort of loser dude you are, there will always be an awesome woman who is irresistibly drawn to you.

Yeah, keep telling yourself that, Hollywood nerd boys.


red light half a star

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Baywatch (2017) | directed by Seth Gordon
US/Can release: May 25 2017
UK/Ire release: May 29 2017

MPAA: rated R for language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, crude humour, nudity, violence)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Danielm80

    Baywatch, Pirates of the Caribbean 5, and Wakefield in the same week? Is it August already?

  • Pinkk

    Have to agree. This type of movie should have done a bit more for the female gaze. I’d say it was there, but perhaps not as some may have wanted. It did show off the abs (and makes fun of them) of Zack’s for instance.

    I agree with you. Felt a bit like watch the CW. The CW will act all inclusive with LGBT, but then only show the women kissing, while the gay men…shoulder hug?

    Same here. Going to show those men off, but not to much. Nevermind they’re at the beach, so why would Jon be wearing the shirt, other than to not show the audience his softness compared to Dwayne and Zack?

    It feels like they were trying to be like 21 Jump Street, but failing like all the others did.

    It had some laughing moments, but your rating feels about right. Though interestingly, I don’t blame any of the actors on this one. I didn’t feel like there was totally terrible acting (except from maybe Hoffman) just a need for a better script.

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  • Jurgan

    Gordon seems intent on proving how very very heterosexual he is with his auteurist dedication to slowing panning up women’s bodies — the less dressed, the better — as often as possible, and to letting the camera hover around the breasts of Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, and Ilfenesh Hadera as often as possible, while never ever similarly fetishizing the impressive physical specimens that are Dwayne Johnson and a newly pumped up Zac Efron… Men as sexy, as eye candy? Men made love to by the camera? That would be nice.”

    How is it that this is more demeaning and sexist than the 90’s show? That show was dumb, but it never felt mean or insulting towards its characters, and there was tons of beefcake as well as cheesecake. You can find lots of slow-mo of barely dressed David Hasselhoff and the other men. It was objectifying, and I imagine there were probably more near-naked women than men, but there was something for people of all persuasions.

  • Engler Pascal

    Ah, Baywatch. If i learned anything from Allison Preglers Recaps of the show then that for a show about lifeguards, it had a lot of episodes about drug or diamond smugglers. ;)
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLzSaABvhwN1NVzkxm86VLsslYmThKtVu0

    Kind of forgot that the film was in the works. Looks like they wanted to jump on the 21 jump street band wagon, without knowing why that film worked.

  • This is what I meant when I posted on Twitter a few days ago that I was feeling defeated by movies. :-(

  • No, it’s not the actors’ faults, except for agreeing to appear in this. The script is hideous, and the direction is terrible.

    It did show off the abs (and makes fun of them) of Zack’s for instance.

    It only shows off the guys’ abs for what they can do with them, like in the contest scene between the Rock and Efron. And, as you note, it’s often treated humorously. Beause of the nature of the job, the women must also have a functional strength to them, but their bodies are *never* depicted for what they can do, only for how they look.

  • Because we have reverted in many cultural ways. The pendulum of sexism has swung waaaaay back toward the misogynist end of the spectrum in the intervening decades.

  • Pinkk

    Actors gotta act. Though, it makes me wonder, would this movie have been made if it wasn’t Dwayne and Zack?

    Would they have just looked for someone else? Or said, “These two won’t do it, let’s make a script they’ll be willing to do.”?

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  • Danielm80

    And, amusingly, a spambot saw my comment and decided I wanted to watch those movies online. I flagged the ad for deletion.

  • RogerBW

    I see it, admittedly with a more limited perspective, as a divergence: we don’t have a single culture that all watches the same TV etc., and so we have some groups where people are trying to be sensible and other groups that are role-playing their fantasy of the 1950s.

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  • Actors do indeed gotta act. But I don’t think these two are so hard up for work OR money that they can’t be a tad more selective.

  • Pinkk

    Agreed. No idea why they took on the roles, maybe they thought better of it before they did it? Maybe they thought it would sell better?

  • IntrepidNormal

    I remember two boys making out rather feverishly on Riverdale. So… progress?

  • John Henry

    I like your reviews, however, this is a comedy and you don’t seem to review it as such. You have a single reference that it misses the comedic sharpness of 21 jump st.

    This is obviously never going to be deep. Given that Joey and Chandler used slow mo women running as the brunt of many a joke it surprises me that you weren’t expecting that. I wish you would have reviewed the general humor, if you even chuckled a little.

  • Pinkk

    Very

  • Danielm80

    It required the work of six overpaid screenwriters — whatever they were paid, it was too much; roll call of shame: Jay Scherick and David Ronn (who both wrote The Smurfs and The Smurfs 2), Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (who both contributed to Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Hell Baby), and Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (who both wrote Freddy Vs. Jason) — to come up with “mangina” as an insult, awkward “jokes” about inconvenient boners, and gay panic. (This is a movie rated as suitable only for adults, but even the “humor” exists on a tween level, at its most sophisticated.)

  • If you don’t think I “reviewed the general humor,” I have no idea how to explain to you that I, in fact, did.

    WTF do Joey and Chandler have to do with this movie or my review? Who says I wasn’t expecting slo-mo soft porn from this movie? You think expecting sexist shit *excuses* sexist shit?

    This is obviously never going to be deep.

    Why not? The *Jump Street* movies managed some pretty cutting and insightful humor… humor that you could even call deep. So I don’t think it’s too much to expect something similar from this movie.

    I did not chuckle. Not once. I should have thought that was obvious from my review.

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  • John Henry

    ‘I did not chuckle. Not once’, now that tells me everything. I haven’t seen this movie, however, having seen some of the quick clips my expectations were of a movie making a joke out of the original series (like the ridiculous McGrubber). Did they try to mock the original baywatch at all? Does it try to expose the sexist nature of the series by being comically sexist?

    Re: ‘WTF do Joey and Chandler have to… ‘. I’m highlighting that slow mo soft porn in baywatch is soo cliche that it’s used as a running joke in one of the highest viewed sitcoms. Therefore, no surprise that it’s what the movie is largely about.

    21 Jump street tv series had a lot more to it than baywatch ever had.

  • Danielm80

    Did they try to mock the original baywatch at all? Does it try to expose the sexist nature of the series by being comically sexist?

    Your questions are answered in MaryAnn’s review. You should try reading the whole thing, instead of skimming, but if you need a cheat sheet, the answers are:

    (1.) Yes
    (2.) No

  • I haven’t seen this movie, however, having seen some of the quick clips my expectations were

    So you were influenced in a positive way by the marketing… which is calculated and designed to have a positive influence on you. Maybe don’t trust it so much.

    Did they try to mock the original baywatch at all?

    Yes, but unsuccessfully. It’s not funny.

    Does it try to expose the sexist nature of the series by being comically sexist?

    There is nothing “comically sexist” in this movie. And anyway, “comic” sexism is still sexism.

    Therefore, no surprise that it’s what the movie is largely about.

    Again, where did I say anything about being surprised?

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