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      Baywatch Review

      Baywatch poster

      Baywatch

      Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

      No formula for success exists regarding feature films based on late 20th century television shows. There are only odds favoring partial or complete failure. So that's comforting.

      But what about "21 Jump Street" and "22 Jump Street"? Didn't those movies work? Yes, they did. Especially the first one, which was crude without being brainless, and relentlessly self-referential without pounding the jokes into the ground. Beyond "Jump Street," let's see ... we've gritted our teeth through "The Dukes of Hazzard" and a dozen more, most recently "CHiPs." And now we have "Baywatch," starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron.

      The bodies on screen are pretty, which I seem to remember was a selling point of the 1989-2001 TV series. The movie's comic instincts, though, are consistently coarse and frequently scrotal. This is what's good about the R-rated "Baywatch" trailer easily found online. It will help you, the consumer, decide if the movie's the kind of wringer you want to put your money through.

      The plot, of course, is fascinating and multilayered. Briefly: When a murderous stilettoed developer (Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra) starts flooding the Baywatch waters with drugs in order to drive down real estate values and snap up the land herself, it's up to superguard Mitch Buchannon (Johnson), his impetuous Olympian swimmer party-boy recruit Matt Brody (Efron), ethereal cleavage-purveyor C.J. (Kelly Rohrbach), Summer (Alexandra Daddario, who Zens her way through the material) and the gang to play crime fighters in addition to lifesavers.

      Screenwriters Mark Swift and Damian Shannon cranked out the "Friday the 13th" reboot and "Freddy vs. Jason." They may well be amusing fellows in real life. But there is scant evidence on screen in "Baywatch," which wobbles around in terms of tone and style, half-ironically, half-sincerely, and lets the montages do the heavy lifting. There is, in fact, a heavy-lifting montage pitting Johnson against Efron in displays of musculature. The movie is all preening and very few laughs, though Daddario and Efron have a few moments, and Johnson remains a supremely likable slab of movie star.

      The TV show that conquered the innocent cheesecake universe took place in Southern California, along Malibu Beach. The movie is set in Florida though it was shot largely in cost-efficient Georgia. I never thought I'd care much about atmosphere and location filming when it came to a "Baywatch" movie. But with director Gordon shooting various action scenes in and around lagoons and along rather pallid-looking stretches of waterfront, at times the results are more akin to an HGTV episode of "Beachfront Bargain Hunt." Gordon has made terrible comedies ("Four Christmases," "Identity Thief") plus a pretty good entry in the ensemble raunch realm (the first "Horrible Bosses"). This one washes up somewhere in between.

      MPAA rating: R (for crude sexual content, language throughout and graphic male nudity).

      Running time: 1:59

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