Like it or not, summer is here. And here in the US, summer means more than sweltering days, pretending to be interested in baseball and unfortunate tan lines. Summertime also heralds in the release of a myriad of (typically sub-par) films that we have lovingly dubbed “summer blockbusters.” The summer blockbuster is a well-loved, time-honored tradition, deeply ingrained in America’s collective psyche. To kick off my summer movie-going experience, I decided that there would be no better place to start than with the re-boot of the seminal television classic, Baywatch. And I am pleased to announce that I was not disappointed.
Baywatch has gotten almost no critical acclaim (many summer blockbusters don’t) but the objective of the summer block buster is not to please the artsy-fartsy, new-wave, critical-thinking types, but to appease the masses. To appeal to nearly everyone. To remind us that though we may come from different backgrounds, we all love well-timed explosions and blatantly ogling attractive people on the silver screen. It reminds us that we’re human, and transports us to a world that is far more exiting than our own. Baywatch, like any summer blockbuster worth its’ salt, featured all of these things. Would it even be Baywatch if there weren’t babes and mega-hunks aplenty jogging in flawless slo-mo across the screen, sensuously spraying water droplets as they do so? This adaptation even contained explosions, and obviously the world of Baywatch is imminently more sizzly and sexy than my own. I don’t want to act like I know you dear reader, but it’s probably (certainly) more compelling than yours as well.
Baywatch was surprisingly charming. To begin with, the movie displays a dauntless and expert use of the “f” word throughout the film, seemingly placed for my own personal amusement and to remind me “I’m an adult woman. I’ll watch what I want.” Secondly, the film seems to be completely self-aware. It realizes that it is a remake of a cheesy television show, and unapologetically continues in the vein of a 90’s television dramedy. There are meet-cutes, there’s a misanthropic, too-cool-for-school-bad-boy stud on a motorcycle (Zac Efron,) there’s a sexy she-villain, there is a mystery to be solved, fisticuffs galore and even a lovable misfit nerd. And if after all that you’re still not convinced I should perhaps tell you that Dwayne “the rock” Johnson got jokes. (that ain’t all he got, tee hee.) At one point in the film he refers to Zac Efron as “High School Musical.” He also engages in an epic fight in the bedroom of a toddler, defeats his foe by dumping a diaper-can-thing on his head and pushing him into a pool. Uttering, what can only be described as one of the best sentences ever written in the history of the English-speaking world, “it’s bath time, shit head.”
And lest I ignore the elephant in the room, “but Lee Ann, aren’t you shamelessly advocating a movie that only serves to perpetuate the male gaze?” No, readers. I am not. Because I do not believe that movie does so. Exhibit A, although women do drown and need rescuing in the film, none of them are rescued by the lovable beef cake, The Rock. The film intentionally (admittedly most likely for comedic effect rather than political correctness,) only shows The Rock rescuing other men. That’s right, there is more than one scene featuring a sultry, sodden The Rock emerging from the depths of the Ocean like Poseidon himself, carrying another man in his arms. Secondly, the slo-mo of the film does not favor one gender over the other. Zac Efron’s abs get just as much slo-mo screen time as any pair of breasts. The film’s dialogue also calls to attention the use of slo-mo, poking fun at one of the signature tropes of its’ television counterpart and by extension the male gaze in general. That isn’t to say that the film is not sexy. It is, as it rightly should be, rife with sexual tension. It is after all, Baywatch, a show about people who get paid to spend most of their waking hours on the beach flaunting their assets in expertly sewn swim wear. If you are offended by people wearing swim suits, then this is obviously not the film for you.
To sum up, I would assert that Baywatch is a success. It accomplished just what it set out to do. It wasn’t trying to be ambitious, it wasn’t trying to create a serious re-make of a much beloved t.v. series. It wasn’t trying to make a statement. It was merely seeking to provide summer fun. And it accomplished just that.