Review – Water Pollution (“Baywatch”)

Bouncing boobies, beautiful buns, and the beckoning beach were the hallmarks of one of the dumbest TV shows that ran from 1989-2001, and starred David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. A bunch of impossibly good-looking lifeguards (usually running in slo-mo) that each week saved lives, joked around, and had goofy adventures. Y’know, like in real life!
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Updated for 2017, not much has really changed. It’s Emerald Bay, Florida and manly beefcake Lt. Mitch Buchanan (Dwayne Johnson) is head honcho of the Baywatch lifeguard team which is: blonde bombshell C. J. Parker (Kelly Rorbach) who, for some inexplicable reason, has the royal hots for schlubby techno-nerd Ronnie (Jon Bass) who wants to join the team. This sort of thing only happens in the movies, folks. ONLY in the movies! The others include Mitch’s second, Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera) and new recruit, Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario and her ice-blue eyes).

Entering into annual recruit competition is Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a Ryan Lochte-ish loser and pig-headed ego-eccentric two-time gold medal winner Olympic swimmer. Dense as a London fog with a serious alcohol addiction, six-pack abs Matt (whom Mitch never calls by his real name) sorta-kinda saves a woman from drowning and gets into the Baywatch team by default. That, and the fact that Baywatch’s dick-of-a-boss (Rob Huebel) demands it. Oh, and that schlubby Ronnie guy (with zero skills) gets in too because, “he’s got heart”. Oy!

Anyway, in a secondary plot, the evil Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), owner of the prestigious Huntley Club, is planning a major coup by buying up all the public beachfront property to make it her private beach. Her seed money? Smuggling in tons of crack cocaine from her yacht to her club. But her problems begin when several of the beachfront owners won’t sell to her and she sends her two goons after them. If they won’t sell, kill ’em!

Meanwhile, back at the beach, man-beef Matt and muscle-man Mitch are having their differences. Truth is, they can’t stand each other as Matt keeps looking for a way around his duties and a way into Summers bikini. But when Mitch finds a baggie of drugs on his beach and a dead councilmen, he wants to investigate, much to the ire of Officer Ellerbee (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who dislikes lifeguards posing as cops. Shame though, since Mitch knows absolutely everything about anything when the situation arises. Ignoring protocol and their job at the beach (did anyone drown?), Mitch and his team search for clues at Victoria’s swanky dinner party.

The usual stuff happens where Matt drinks too much at the party, makes a fool of himself, but later does something really brave and stupid to make him and Mitch bond like bro’s. More hijinks ensue with Ronnie and C. J. getting closer (seriously, what does she see in him?!), Mitch getting fired for investigating and later getting a pep-talk from his “mentor”, David Hasselhoff, and Matt & Summer finding the stash of drugs aboard Victoria’s yacht. After a really dumb ending involving fireworks, the gang is reunited and introduced to their new boss, Pamela Anderson. Double oy!

Saying this is a bad film is an insult to bad films. With a thumping hip-hop/rap soundtrack and a barrage of overused camera shots (slo-mo, smash-cuts, wild tracking, etc), I almost walked out on this movie. Written like fan-fiction by a geeky and horny 14-year-old, screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (Freddy vs Jason) are proof that writing a truly bad script can get green-lit in this town. Horrible dialogue, a lame, unfunny, and predictable plot that must’ve been written on a Carl’s jr. napkin, with embarrassing acting from the cast and a villain that was laughably awful.

Now director Seth Gordon has done some quality work (Horrible Bosses), but then again, he had a far superior script. Here, he did ONE nice tracking stunt shot and that was it. The rest is all your standard gratuitous half-naked women (not that I mind that), jokes/gags that epically failed, scenes that made no sense at all and, worst of all, the director and cast on auto-pilot. I’ve heard of actors doing a ‘paycheck’ movie, but a director? The only one that seemed to be putting any effort into his craft was Abdul-Mateen as the dim-witted cop.  This movie SO wanted to be like the 21 Jump Street or the Charlie’s Angels films, which were clearly better than this piece of garbage.                                        

 
Lifeguard (1976)
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Starring Sam Elliot and his mighty mustache (which has its own agent, BTW), this movie does not have explosions, dead bodies on the beach, terrorists, stupid cops, villains spouting outrageous lines before killing you, or a bevy of hot beauties in thong bikinis. Despite the movie poster’s overtly sexual cover art, this thought-provoking character study is actually just the opposite of what you might think.

How long can you really go on living your dream? For thirty-something Rick Carlson (Elliott), it’s being a So. Cal. lifeguard. He’s got a sweet life: a good paying job at the beach each day saving people, banging hot babes at night, driving a cool Corvette, and training a young protégé named Chris (Parker Stevenson). Yeah, being a lifeguard’s fun; you see girls in bikini’s all day, weird guys exposing themselves, metal detector people, surfers galore, and some crazy teenager called Machine Gun (Steve Burns) whose life goal is to feel-up girls under the waves.

But you know what they say about tide and time, right? Just after Rick gets his 15-year-high school anniversary invitation, he meets up with his old buddy, Larry (Stephen Young). An ex-actor, Larry now sells Porsche’s and loves it, so much so, he wants Rick to sell them, too. Plus, the money’s not too shabby, either! Besides his dad getting on his case to “grow up”, Rick gets his second dose of reality when Cathy (Anne Archer), his ex-high school flame, has a 6-year-old kid and makes a good living. Just as they hook up, Rick meets Wendy (Kathleen Quinlan,), a local teenager at the beach who immediately falls for the hunky man-beef. Can you say “jail-bait”?

As the summer progresses, Rick feels his age creeping up him. His prowess in the annual Lifeguard Olympics suffers, he wants to settle down with Cathy and her son, nailing an underage girl suddenly seems wrong, and selling Porsche’s doesn’t feel all that bad to him. Yes, the pull of growing up tugs at his heart until. . .the beach pulls harder and Rick decides (in a bittersweet finale) that he can’t leave the lifeguard job that he loves so much. Idiotic move or poignant reckoning, you decide.

His second only screenplay, Ron Koslow wrote mainly TV shows (Moonlight, Beauty & the Beast) while director Daniel Petrie is most noted for his Oscar nominated movie, Raisin in the Sun. This is the movie that launched Sam Elliott’s career, who previously starring in nothing films and commercials. Fact is, director Petrie saw Elliott in the dumb 1972 movie Frogs and liked his performance so much, he gave the role of Rick to him, even though it was already cast. First choice? Beau Bridges!

Elliott fully inhabits Rick with his incredible good-looks and physique, easy-going charm, and his laid-back acting skills. Quinlan plays a wonderful perky and confused teen (even though she’s really 22-years-old), and Stevenson’s natural personality would nab him a nice TV series the following year with The Hardy Boys Mysteries. Oddly enough, Stevenson would reprise (kinda) his role as a lifeguard again on TV’s Baywatch in 1989.  

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