By Charly SHELTON
Long before the slow motion guys took to YouTube, and before the iPhone had a 240 frames per second slow motion camera, and even before the Mythbusters broke things at super slow motion to analyze the fracture of a skull, there was one name in slow motion photography that we all knew. Baywatch. The show was a little campy and funny, but it had a very loyal fan base over its 12-year run from 1989 to 2001. It inspired movies, specials and even a short-lived spinoff called “Baywatch Nights” where lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (David Hasselhoff) becomes a part-time private investigator who solves ocean and beach related crimes. Now it has spawned a big-screen reboot that is being met warmly by critics and preview audiences alike, and it’s not just because Alexandra Daddario is running in slow motion. But that doesn’t hurt.
There is a joke on the strangely prophetic, cult-classic cartoon show “Futurama” when Pamela Anderson guest stars. They make reference to “Baywatch: The Movie” being the first film to be shot entirely in slow motion and earning her an Oscar. And while the film isn’t entirely slow mo, it’s pretty close. Add to that Zac Efron as Matt Brody, a pretty boy Olympic swimmer who is too cocky for his own good, and Dwayne Johnson, the new Lt. Mitch Buchannon who gives Brody the business with pop-culture referencing nicknames like “One Direction” and “N’Sync,” and what you have is a recipe for a comedy that is true to the original show while not taking itself too seriously. It walks the fine line between goofy parody like “21 Jump Street” and too-serious-for-its-own-good like “Power Rangers” without straying into a completely unfaithful rewrite like “Bewitched.”
To be honest I’ve only seen the show a few times and it was back in the early 1990s, so I am by no means an expert. Going into the movie fresh, without presuppositions, I got a lot of the references and really enjoyed it as a film on its own. My youngest sister didn’t understand the Hasselhoff cameo like I did, but other than that she got it all, too. This is just a fun buddy cop comedy that stars lifeguards instead of cops. Efron and Johnson are perfect together and should replace Kevin Hart. Hart and Johnson have done several movies together but now we have Zac Efron, so Hart can go back to standup comedy and Efron can take over from here.
The movie is worth the price of admission just to see the two of them on screen together. It really is a Hope and Crosby type chemistry that is palpable to the audience.
The rest of the cast is admirable as well, specifically Kelly Rohrbach. She is the spitting image of a young Pamela Anderson and, given the way she looks, one would expect her to come across as a bimbo. And in many other movies, she may be asked to do just that. But Rohrbach plays CJ with such a subtle hand that she always seems sweet and nice, never dumb. Once again, walking the line to give a nice balance to the film.
The movie opens today, hoping to capitalize on the Memorial Day weekend crowds. And going up against the new Pirates movie, which opens Friday, the extra day may give it a boost in the box office race. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is getting less-than-positive reviews overall and many wish it would just stop telling those lackluster tales and let the once great franchise die with a shred of dignity intact. After the last several disappointing Pirates films, it might be nice to jump ship, swim back to the beach and see something new and fresh, based on an old ’90s TV show.