A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Baywatch is an action comedy starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron based on the popular '90s TV series. Unlike the show, the movie takes things to R-rated levels. There's more violence than you might expect, with deaths played for laughs, gun play, and dead bodies (including gory photos of a body with big chunks bitten out of it by a shark). In one long sequence, a character has to manipulate a dead man's genitals (his penis and testicles are shown a lot), and another character treats the scene as if it's funny. There are other "gay panic" scenes -- for instance, a same-sex mouth-to-mouth scene -- and one character calls another things like "bitch," "princess," and "butterfly" to suggest that he's womanly and weak. There's no sex, but you'll see kissing, flirting, and crude sequences in which one character can't stop getting an erection and another can't stop looking at a woman's breasts. Female characters are dressed in very revealing costumes (male characters aren't, although they're often shown shirtless), and the camera pans up and down their bodies frequently. They also run in slow motion, a gimmick imported from the TV show. Strong language includes many variations of "f--k," as well as "s--t," "goddamn," and more. Drinking plays a part in a subplot, with a character neglecting his duties in order to drink shots, and drugs are the focus of the movie's main plot.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In beautiful Emerald Bay, swimmers and beachgoers alike are kept safe by BAYWATCH, an elite band of lifeguards led by Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson). Along with second-in-command Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera) and stalwart lifeguard CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach), Mitch keeps the beaches safe from drownings, shark attacks, and bands of roving thieves and perps. As summer begins, the Baywatch crew has three new recruits: studly-yet-reckless disgraced Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron), dorky-yet-sweet Ronnie (Jon Bass), and wide-eyed Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario). But the newbies aren't destined to have an easy summer up on the tower: Nefarious businesswoman Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) is making some very shady real-estate deals, just as envelopes of a drug called flaca keep washing up on the beach. Are they related? It's going to take some mighty teamwork -- and a few slow-mo runs up the beach -- to find out.
Is it any good?
What a shame to take this charming cast and maroon them in a morass of stale jokes and sub-sitcom-level plot twists in a remake that reads as a missed opportunity. There are a few moments when Baywatch seems to have a sense of humor about its cheesy origins and the silliness of a remake, chiefly when Matt points out that a group of lifeguards who sneak into a fancy party in order to catch a drug dealer sounds like the plot of a "far-fetched TV show." But such ironic high points are few and far between in this comedy that reaches for "escapist summer humor" but instead lands on "embarrassment for all involved." Even The Rock can't make us love a movie with three running jokes about penises, none of which is funny or original.
But it's other issues that render this movie icky, rather than just bland and forgettable: The female characters are sidelined, given little to do besides run slowly up and down the beach and smile patiently as the camera (and every male character onscreen) ogles their bodies. The most they're given to do during the movie's frequent CGI-heavy danger-and-rescue scenes is idle a boat in the water to wait for their male coworkers to finish the heroics. Worse, one male character is frequently called "princess" or "bitch," and a coworker records a video of him touching the penis of a dead man (The Office's Oscar Nunez, which makes the scene even weirder for fans of that show). Ha ha, like he's gay, see? Because that's funny. And it's a dead guy's penis, so that's funny, too. Right? Right? Hey, where are you going? No thanks, movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Baywatch treats its female characters. Why do you think they're dressed in lifeguard uniforms that are different from those of the male characters? Why would the movie want to show female bodies more than male ones? What message does that send about gender portrayals?
Is it funny when one male character calls another names like "bitch" and "princess"? What message does that send about masculinity? And why would a man be upset at the idea of giving another man mouth-to-mouth?
Why do you think studios make movies based on old TV shows. What audience are they hoping to attract? Do you think it works?
And why do you think so many movies based on shows amp up sex/violence/language and other content? Does that make them more compelling or interesting in general? What about Baywatch in particular?
- In theaters: May 25, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: August 29, 2017
- Cast: Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario
- Director: Seth Gordon
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity
- Last updated: November 30, 2020
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