Movie Review – Baywatch (2017)

TL;DR – It tries to tread a familiar path with tone and execution, but lacks the charm with its story and Dwayne Johnson’s charisma can only get you so far.

Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars

Baywatch

Review

So to be fair, where ever possible I try to read nothing about a film before I go see it, because I want my first viewing to be through my own eyes and not the through the lens of other people’s views, it’s why I avoid trailers wherever possible. However, for Baywatch that simply was not possible as it released a week later here in Australia and the mixed reviews were everywhere. So when I walked into the cinema I was not really expecting anything of great quality, possibly even a dumpster fire of a film. However, I do have to say it’s not that bad, I mean it is not great, or even good, more borderline, but if anything it is just a real missed opportunity. Now throughout this review, I am going to be referring to 21 Jump Street (2012) and its sequel 22 Jump Street (2014) a bit. Now, on the one hand, I do think generally films should stand or fall on their own merit, however in the case of sequels or here when they were clearly trying to replicate the success of a previous movie, well then you can’t help but invite comparisons.

Now before we start I should make it clear that this is a very R film with drugs, swearing and nudity, so not quite in line with the source material, but something you should know before someone inevitably takes their kids to go see it.

There are some beautiful moments of color and framing

There are some beautiful moments of color and framing

So to set the scene, we are here in lovely Emerald Bay Florida, on the first day of try-outs for new lifeguards for the summer season. Overseeing the try-out is Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson), his second in command Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera) and long-time lifeguard CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach). Now they usually only accept one new recruit a season but this time they can accept three new recruits which is lucky for the plot since there are three name brand characters running for the position. Of course there is Matt Brody (Zac Efron) the I don’t want to be here but they are making me but I’ll probably learn a lesson and come to like it at some point recruit, then there is Ronnie (Jon Bass) who has a lot of heart which is code for him not having the same physique as the rest of the lifeguards and who is mostly reserved for a slapstick comedy role, and you have Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) who is positioned as the no-nonsense recruit who immediately calls Matt out on his inappropriate flirting which means they will have a will they/ won’t they flirt off for the rest of the film. All is calm on the bay … that the lifeguards watch… until mysterious businesswoman Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) comes to town and drugs start washing up on the beach. Ok as far as a set up goes there are some interesting characters, you have a good setting, and you have hired a cast that can really pull of these roles. But on the other hand, you have created a set-up that is so stock standard it feels like I have seen components of this film reproduced over and over again in different and often better films.

So firstly the good parts of the film and the first good point is the acting because I do think everyone here is giving their best even with the story not working all that well. Honestly, I think this is a perfect role for Dwayne Johnson because he gets to show a lot of his strengths, from his charisma to his ability, to motivate others, and he has the physicality that the role needed. Zac Efron plays the cocky overly ripped guy that needed to learn a lesson, basically a role he has played many times in the past like Bad Neighbours and a host of others.  The rest of the supporting cast all have their moments but bar the subplot of Ronnie and CJ the story leaves them all feeling a little one-note.

Everyone is giving their all, even if the story is not helping them

Everyone is giving their all, even if the story is not helping them

When it comes to the technical side of things there were also interesting features, first, it really helps that a lot of this was filmed on location it helps give you that sense of reality that the film needed. Most of the action scenes were competently put together, there was a flow to the editing that made the sequences clear and not the hacky jump cut edits of some movies. For me I think the standout moment was the opening sequence with Mitch rescuing a kite-surfer that hit the rocks, there was a great flow to the sequence and it had a more surreal style that would have worked a lot better had the film employed it throughout, but alas. The music worked well with a mix of orchestral and licenced works which do a good job of setting the scene. One area that they do need to work on is the sound mixing, you could tell the difference between some of the dialogue recorded on site and those recorded later in ADR.

So we’ve talked about some of the things that did work we need to now talk about the big thing that did not work and that is the story, pretty much all the story. Because we are talking about the story there will be [SPOILERS]. Ok, where to begin because there is a lot to unpack, so for starters let’s look at how they adapted this movie from the source material. There has been a big vogue in Hollywood to adapt old TV shows and turn them into movies, to tap into that nostalgia market that has been powering juggernauts like Nintendo for years. We’ve had such gems as the before mentioned 21 Jump Street, or The A-Team, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and this year’s Power Rangers, but also a whole ton of films that just did not adapt all that well to the big screen because of creative decisions like Avatar: The Last Airbender or Ghost in the Shell. What has been happening recently is that to stand out of the crowd movies spice these adaptations up by making them (USA) R-rated comedies to tap into that mindset of what if, imagine Baywatch but what if they were allowed to curse and actually show the things that we always saw in slow motion. It’s a good idea and one that works for about five minutes before the novelty wears off. Part of this is because the writing is just not as clever as it needs to be to pull this off, like there is a scene where they basically riff of some weird scenarios and clearly these were all plot points from old Baywatch episodes but it feels so forced, unlike say the similar thing that was done in The Lego Batman Movie which tipped its hat to the audience to let them know they were in on the joke. Or for example it is quite common to get the old stars to appear in the new film as cameos, it happened in The Brady Bunch Film, in Ghostbusters, in 21 Jump Street, in Get Smart etc. It is one of those things that is there for the fans of the original but one of the reasons that they work is that they are a surprise. But here there is no surprise because you know David Hasselhoff & Pamela Anderson are going to show up at some point because there are in the opening credits and not in a tongue and cheek Deadpool kind of way. Also, the R rating just does not provide anything new to the film like it does in say Logan, it all felt more than a little unnecessary, and took away from the charm the film could have had. For example, save for the unnecessary prison scene, in 22 Jump Street, they used their R rating as a way of highlighting the absurdity of the story not as a crutch to try to prop up the story

While the style is there in places, there needed more work on the substance of the story

While the style is there in places, there needed more work on the substance of the story

This, of course, leads us to the next problem, while the adaptation is one issue, the bigger problem is the threadbare story that is full of inconstancies. Look sure there are some funny moments in Baywatch but it all wears off really quickly once they start repeating the same gags, and everything else becomes really predictable. You have the film hitting stereotypes early and it does not let up throughout, like Ronnie and his often changing body hair. You have sloppy writing like at the start where Mitch points out a sea urchin and goes this will make you super strong and then kill you, and sure Chekhov’s Gun and all that, but it might as well have been labelled ‘This will be important to the final battle’. If it had just been these clunky foreshadowing’s then it might not have been that bad but the lazy writing leads to characters acting out of character just because the plot needed them to. For example Mitch is shown to put the people’s lives above everything, and he gets understandably angry at Matt when his actions led to people’s lives being put in jeopardy, but half way through the movie he abandons his post, and leaves no one watching the beach to run down a lead at the morgue. Also, there is Dave (Hannibal Buress) who is shown at the start to be friends with Ronnie, only just to pop up later in the film as one of Victoria’s henchmen. Finally, also there are those moments where characters just act stupidly with no regards to their lives. While it might not be at Alien: Covenant levels, but in the end, Victoria went to almost the worst place she could have gone to get helicoptered out. Seeing such lazy writing which amounts to nothing is annoying when there are really good examples out there like 22 Jump Street’s meta-commentary on sequels, or Man from U.N.C.L.E.’s exploration of Cold War politics, is just disappointing. [End of SPOLERS]

In the end, look it is not the train wreck I was expecting, but it wasn’t all that good either, so as much as a couple of things made me laugh I can’t really recommend Baywatch. Honestly, it has such a good cast that I really did wish that they had gotten a better story to play around in. So my recommendation is to spend your money elsewhere.

 

Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Directed by
– Seth Gordon
Screenplay by – Damian Shannon & Mark Swift
Story By – Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant
Based onBaywatch by Michael Berk, Douglas Schwartz & Gregory J. Bonann
Music by – Christopher Lennertz
Cinematography by – Eric Steelberg
Edited by – Peter S. Elliot
Starring
– Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass, Ilfenesh Hadera, Hannibal Buress, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II & Rob Huebel with David Hasselhoff & Pamela Anderson
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; NZ: R; UK: 15; USA: R

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Movie Review – Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

TL;DR – About as enjoyable as an overseas destination wedding

Score – 1.5 out of 5 stars

(Viewer discretion is advised even with the general audience trailer)

Review

You know this is a movie I have seen so many times now, to the point I was going to have my review be same as – The Night Before, Dirty Grandpa, Grimsby and on and on and on. It feels like when The Hangover exploded on the screens, and Hollywood realised that people would go watch an R-rated comedy they decided that this would be the only type of R-rated comedy that would sell, so they change the setting and the cast, well actually no, not the cast because you see the same cast members over and over again, I’m looking at you Zac Efron, and the same wacky adventure, with the same jump scare humour, the only difference is trying to outgross the last successful film to see where the line in the sand is. All of this, at best, gets quite boring to watch, and at worse can actually drag down really important issues with it, see Bad Neighbours 2. I would like to say Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates breaks this trend and tries to do something different like Deadpool, but alas not, it is the same old shtick with a new colour of paint over the top.

The basic premise of MADNWD is that Mike (Adam DeVine) and Dave (Zac Efron) are two brothers that sell booze for a living and have a history of bringing the ‘fun’ to family events. Actually, this leads to the only interesting sequence in the entire movie, where during the opening credits we are shown a series of amazing parties only to find out later that this is kind of an idealised view, and in fact, Mike and Dave are a storm of disaster where ever they go. So at the start of the movie their younger sister Jeanie (Stephanie Beard) is getting married and their parents (Stephen Root) set an ultimatum that they can’t come stag to the wedding, and thus have to find dates, so Mike and Dave need dates to the wedding, well you need to give the film props for putting the bare justification of the film in the title. So they go about this by advertising it on Craigslist, which you know is a thing a normal person would do, where they meet Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza), who are bad girls pretending to be good to get a free holiday, and of course that is a classy as it sounds.

It has a strong cast but they don't make the most of them

It has a strong cast but they don’t make the most of them

So what is this film, well it is many things, it’s an ad for Hawaii, and it doubles down on reminding you of better films that were filmed there, I mean if you are literally going on a Jurassic Park tour at least shell out for the music, or maybe they saw what a mess this film was and did not want to be anywhere near it. As well as this, it is a film that leans on some pretty unpleasant stereotypes for laughs. It is also a case point example that just because you have perfect abs, does not mean you would get stuck in bad film after bad film. It is a clear case of rich people be crazy, I mean seriously, I would like to see how much all of that would have cost in real life money, because I would suggest it would be in the range of a hella lot, also, like many movies in this genre, most of this cast would have been arrested at some point in this film. It is indeed a film of many things, but none of them makes a good film.

In the end, I like me some Sci-fi, so as an audience member I am prepared to give movies incredible leeway when it comes to the suspension of disbelief, but Zac Efron not being able to find a date to a wedding is many a step too far. Spend your money elsewhere.

 

Directed by – Jake Szymanski
Written by – Andrew J. Cohen & Brendan O’Brien
Starring – Zac Efron, Adam DeVine, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Stephanie Beard & Stephen Root
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; NZ: R; UK: 15; USA: R

Bad Neighbours 2 (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) Movie Review –

TL;DR – This is an interesting film however, it just does not work really well, it is not that the film does not bring up some interesting issues, it’s just that they are overwhelmed by a standard Seth Rogen comedy and everything that goes with that.

Score – 2 out of 5 stars

Review – So well, yer, this is quite a difficult film to review, because there are many things about Bad Neighbours 2 that are really interesting, and I really want to give the film props for talking about them. But, and trust me it is a big but, you have to wade through so much rubbish to get to those moments, and there are other films that do it better.

Life with a toddler

Life with a toddler

Bad Neighbours 2 tells the story of three interconnected groups, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) Radner, a young family looking to sell their house to move into the suburbs. Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons) & Nora (Beanie Feldstein) a group of college students that discover that sororities can do absolutely nothing, so they start their own sorority to avoid dealing with fraternities, which just so happens to be next door to the Radners. Finally, you have Teddy (Zac ‘damn he be ripped’ Efron) who at the start of this film is kicked out of his friend Pete’s (Dave Franco) house after Pete gets engaged, and thus is trying to find himself. Of course, all this sounds like an interesting scenario, and if this was Bad Neighbours 1 then it would have been, but it also sound like a bad rehash of the first film, because let’s be honest, it totally is.

Ok as I said there are some really important themes being discussed in this film, which I do think could have made an interesting story, that does help the narrative, a bit (this is the part where I list some good things before I slam the film). There is a sort of blunt realness to parts of the film, parents trying to have ‘relations’ quietly because they don’t want to wake up a sleeping child, which is life for so many new parents. It also deals with the notion of watching everyone move ahead in their lives whilst you remain stationary, which is a really interesting area to explore. Finally, and I would say the most important issue, the film explores is the issue of the really crappy gender issues that appear in American Collages. In the opening introduction, you get the overview of what it is like to be a women in many if not most college campuses in the USA, trying to enjoy yourself in a world which promotes “No means Yes” and your only worth as a person is judged on if you put out or not. The girls wanting to escape that toxic environment gave them a really good motivation for wanting to maintain what they have, and this plays into the fact that the Radner’s are raising daughters, and what world do they want them to grow up in. This is a really important issue because it is something people experience every day, and it is really interesting watching Teddy realise just what an awful person he was when he led the fraternity, and I wish I could say more good things about it but, and as I said it is a big but.

Seriously how ripped is Zac Efron

Seriously how ripped is Zac Efron

The problem is that all of these really important issues are coating in Seth Rogen’s trademark comedic tone or excess. Now, this is not something that can be a movie killer, for example, the first film was ok, and The Interview shows that you can have Seth Rogen’s style of comedy and have it work with an important issue.  However, here it just smothers the film, removing any of the impact these important issues could have had. Also, the whole dispute feels forced, the only reason the Radner’s and the sorority are fighting is because the movie wanted them to. It also glosses over the fact that most of the cast are committing felonies that would have led to long jail times. Now you might be saying, oh but that happens all the time in those films, and I would agree with you, but not for the fact that Teddy can’t get a job because he has a criminal record from the last film was a plot point. It is just such a wasted opportunity. All of this is weighed down by really bad Sequel-itus, we have been here before, we have seen this movie several times in the past. On top of this, the friends of the Radner’s fell superfluous and only there because they were in the first film, many of the running gags get boring quite quickly, indeed most of the ‘jokes’ get taken too far, not because they work within the context of the film but because they are trying to justify their American R-Rating, and there is no way many of the pranks in the film would have worked in real life.

It raises some good points, but it is drowned out

It raises some good points, but it is drowned out

In the end, can I recommend this film?, no, no I cannot, even though it is talking about some really important things. What I can do is recommend films that do this better, for example, Mad Max: Fury Road, or indeed Chefs Table on Netflix. Give this one a pass.

 

Directed by – Nicholas Stoller
Written by – Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
Starring – Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo & Dave Franco
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14; Ireland: 16; NZ: M; UK: 15, USA: R

Movie Review – Dirty Grandpa

TL;DR – What an awful steaming pile of effluent this move was, at best it is lazy, at worse it is deeply problematic, don’t waste your money on this.

Score – 1 out of 5 stars

Review

Dirty Grandpa is a film about a recent widower taking his grandson on a trip to Daytona Beach, there is more to the story, but I could not be bothered to explain it.

The film employs comedy like a jump scare in a bad horror film, an attempt to shock you into laughter through gross-out jokes and imagery. Which means that it ends up being a pale imitation of a comedy film, because sure you’ll laugh but only really as an involuntary action, which makes you feel really unpleasant afterwards.

What a waste of talent

What a waste of talent

This is not even touching on the incredibly problematic issues with the film. There is a sequence where a mostly nude Zac Efron wakes up on the beach after a night partying on numerous hard drugs wearing only a soft toy fanny pack over his genitalia. At which point a young child comes up asking to play with the soft toy, the parent only sees this from behind and think Zac Efron is molesting their child and then “hilarity ensues”. On the one hand, how the ‘insert adjective of your choice’ does this even make it through the scripting phase, and on the other how do you actually film it when it is clearly a mostly nude Zac Effron and a child in the same scene, seriously how do you mitigate the welfare issues of the actor in that situation. This is but one of the several really problematic scenes in this film, like police letting a suspect that sells hard drugs to primary school children go because they like him.

In conclusion, don’t waste your money on this film, in fact, don’t give any money to the filmmakers, if you want to go out, go bowling instead, ten pins or lawn, either works, it will be a much better use of your time and money.

Directed by – Dan Mazer
Written by – John M Philips
Starring – Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Zoey Deutch, Julianne Hough & Dermot Mulroney
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Ireland: 18; NZ: R16; UK: 15; USA: R