Lowbrow does not necessarily equate with bad. Which in this case is just as well, for the adaptation to the big screen of David Hasselhoff’s unfathomably successful TV series is about as lowbrow as it gets.
But there is a likeable foolishness about it and its two leading men, Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, combine well for what is essentially a fairly predictable buddy movie. The introductory scene, with the credits rolling, is wildly self-mocking, and it is followed by a very funny dick routine that leaves you in no doubt as to the tone of what will come in its wake. In fact, keeping abreast of the times, director Seth Gordon squeezes in more dick jokes than tit jokes, including one in which Zac Efron handles the penis of a cadaver. The Baywatch lifeguards, with Mitch (Johnson) as their guiding light, are conducting the annual recruitment test for new members when Matt Brody (Efron), an egotistical former Olympic champion now in disgrace after a bender led him to spew in the pool (‘the vomit comet’), arrives to join them as part of his rehab. Mitch and Matt don’t hit it off at all, but with a little tough love and contrition on Matt’s part, bridges will be built as the team unites to solve the mystery of who is smuggling meth into the Baywatch area.
The girls are sexy but shallow, the hipster soundtrack does not miss a beat in driving the action and Johnson displays impeccable timing in delivering some sharp one-liners. Less appealing is the level of violence that grows as the story’s crime component takes precedence – it is neither offensive nor graphic, but it does seem out of place in what should be a tongue-in-cheek romp. The beach itself simply cannot hold a candle to what we are familiar with in our Shire (location shots were in Florida and Georgia) and the bloopers aren’t worth waiting for. Hasselhoff makes an appearance, as does an almost lifelike Pamela Anderson, compared to whom Efron is as cute as a button.