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Baywatch is a Confused Film
The trailers for Baywatch might lead you to believe that this film is a funny, meta send-up of the original TV series. Yet when the movie begins with a tepid ocean rescue played straight, it immediately confuses the tone of the film. That sums up Baywatch. This movie doesn't know what it wants to be.
There's a running gag in this film about the Baywatch lifeguards refusing to understand that they're not law enforcement. It's hilarious satire of the original show and the entire premise, and the film almost starts to sound smart in these moments. The script keeps returning to this joke and it remains humorous, but there's no real payoff.
Other humor in the movie is sporadic. The Rock and Zac Efron have chemistry as rivals. Efron is especially funny and the highlight of the film. Aside from that, there is some gross-out humor that doesn't work, and the rest of the story is played as a straight and dark action piece. There was potential for the action sequences to be played for comedy, but they're strangely earnest. Even when an action sequence strives for humor (in particular a tussle between Dwayne Johnson's Mitch and a henchman), it feels like a weak attempt.
In the end, this film doesn't gel. It wouldn't have worked at all if it was just a self-serious action spectacle. But the comedy that's there is lazy and occasional. There was probably a better version of this film that went further into Police Academy-level absurdity. What we got was a mish-mosh of a movie that feels unfinished.
The Mod Squad (1999)
Stylish and Charming, but Weak.
While the new "Mod Squad" boasts style and some likable characters, the plot and premise are as sound as ice-skating in the bathtub.
Some vintage 1970's cars, funky music and flashy chase scenes highlight the picture and the characters do have a unique sense of dress. While Omar Epps is cool and in charge as Linc and Giovanni Ribisi is quirky and comedic as Pete, Claire Danes plays a pretty plain Julie. Unfortunately, the characters' histories are glazed over and the film is negligent in their absence, such as how Julie knows the older man from her past that she is seeing. Furthermore, Linc seems pretty level-headed for a former arsonist with a message. While a wonderful scene with Pete encountering his parents was touching, the audience is left to wonder what came before.
The premise of this movie is a bit limited, as the authority the kids don't have but pretend to stretches credibility. Three young convicts working off their time through undercover assignments for the police can only do so much, and it's not plausible that many would respect their commands as one individual does in this film. Even if one can suspend disbelief, the story is predictable, sometimes incomprehensible and has a few holes.
There are some bright spots in this film besides the style and characters, such as how alone the characters realize they are in solving the case. These alone make the film worthy of watching on TV.