First off I should say that everybody in front of the camera looked like they tried their hardest, and they all looked damn good doing it. Now that I've exhausted the lone positive thing I have to say, Baywatch is by far the worst big budget comedy to get released in years. There were no big laughs, and the few action scenes bore. It's a top to bottom horrible mess of a movie.
Dwayne Johnson has proven himself to be able to deliver a joke in an action movie setting, but in an actual comedy movie that style of humor does not work. Between harrowing action scenes we will forgive poor writing and corny jokes because it's an easy way to release built up energy (the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Fast and Furious franchise being the best examples of this). Baywatch attempts to build an entire comedy movie off of these purposefully bad jokes. They are so weak that half of the time I couldn't tell if they were making an attempt at a joke or not. Most of the ones that successfully register as jokes were clearly added in post, while a handful of decent jokes that worked well in the trailers are absent from the film, a dumbfounding decision.
That's Baywatch's largest problem. The tone, joke-writing, and editing are all an incoherent mess. You simple can not tell what is supposed to be happening, ever. The whole film is shot with sickly dark yellow and orange hues (once again, a choice missing from the trailers, which are full of bright blues) that are totally at odds with the attempted crude broad humor. The action scenes are also treated with deadly seriousness, a problem considering they all amount to low stakes foot or jet ski chases, edited in a way that can only be described as an attempt to confuse you.
The plot is really not worth mentioning. The Baywatch is an elite lifeguard unit that, on top of risking their lives to save drowning beachgoers, act as a sort of renegade force to stop all crime as it relates to their beach. This time around they have to stop Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), a shady businesswoman who recently purchased the bay to have as a front to import her drugs via boat. Theoretically this could work, but Chopra's villain is humorless and dull. It's simply an excuse to get you to the lame action scenes.
The actors do whatever it is that they can given the material. Zac Efron has created a great comedic niche for himself in recent years as the cocky but ditsy hot blonde, but he is only allowed to do that here for fleeting, underdeveloped moments. The rest of the time he is, with no irony, playing a tortured, disgraced former Olympian. As I'm sure will surprise no one, the ladies are given fuck all in terms of jokes. Kelly Rohrbach and Alexandra Daddario merely get to stand there and play into the men ogling them. Ilfenesh Hadera isn't even given that much to do, she merely shows up from time to time to tell Johnson that there is something cool for him to do. Jon Bass is the brightest spot in the film, but his character basically boils down to the typical out-of-shape nerdy guy who becomes a hopelessly stammering mess whenever he makes eye contact with the (gasp!) pretty girl.
Baywatch could've been a sexy, fun summer romp. Instead it's a plodding slog that left me envious of the woman who walked out 20 minutes in. I can only hope she went across the hall to watch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, or Snatched, or (sigh) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. I hope that she went home home and rented CHiPs. Whatever she did it was more worthwhile than staying in that beaten down, sad, silent theatre.