Rather predictably, there have been a lot of critics posting sniffy reviews of Baywatch, but I can’t help thinking that they may have missed the point.
This was never pretending to be Shakespeare. It doesn’t claim to have Scorese levels of direction, Aaron Sorkin dialogue or Michael Bay style special effects. It never set out to be a modern classic that will sweep the board at the Oscars and take pride of place in your DVD collection.
This is a Baywatch movie, and it doesn’t try to be anything else. You get everything you would expect: tight swimsuits, sun drenched locations, rippling biceps, slow motion running and lots of heroic splashing about and saving people. You even get Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff, albeit very briefly.
We were probably the only people in the audience who were even born when Baywatch first graced our Saturday teatime TV screens in 1989, but the iconic red, high cut costumes, wooden beach towers and float-on-a-rope trailing out behind a hunky lifeguard sprinting along the beach, have passed into popular culture so much that everyone knew what they were in for.
This is a fun summer crime caper, with added TV pedigree, and while it won’t change your life, it will keep you a lot more entertained for its two hour run time than the critics would have you believe. The gags are funny, if sometimes a touch too ‘American Pie’ in their subject matter, the characters are likeable (although it has to be said the female characters could have had more to say), and the messages of teamwork, redemption and good guys beating the bad guys all work well.
Perhaps most importantly, this is a film that knows what it wants to be, and isn’t afraid to stick with it. Far too many recent films have been tonally all over the place, leaving you unsure whether to laugh or cry. ‘Snatched’ tried to blend comedy with drama and failed at both. ‘The Promise’ tried to be both romance and historical epic, and while both worked in their own way, the two ideas never really gelled together. Even the epic ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ swung wildly from Guy Ritchie East End knockabout to full on superhero conflict.
Whatever faults Baywatch may have, and there are many, at least it knows its tone and knows its audience, and it stays true to both from start to finish. Its tongue is firmly in its cheek throughout and it knows its place – even taking time to mock the plots of the original as sounding like something from a cheesy TV show.
You won’t see Dwayne Johnson collecting an Academy Award next February, and it’s unlikely that Baywatch will be featuring in The Light’s carefully curated ‘Too Good To Miss’ selection. But that doesn’t make it a bad film. And when you look at the depths plumbed by other reboots, such as the appalling ‘CHiPs’, or undo all that expensive therapy by making yourself remember Zac Efron’s previous outing in ‘Bad Grandpa’, it starts to look a whole lot better.
So leave the critics to their Cannes reviews, check your cynicism at the door, and let yourself enjoy some laughs, some excitement and some beautiful people in an exotic location. After all, isn’t that what going to the cinema is all about sometimes?