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The ‘Baywatch’ Exit Survey

Dwayne Johnson or Zac Efron? Was Priyanka Chopra a good villain? Did anyone ask for this movie? The Ringer staff answers the tough questions about the Rock’s latest movie.

(Paramount Pictures)
(Paramount Pictures)

Baywatch may have had a tough weekend at the box office, but as the original television show’s theme song put it, weeee were thereeee. Afterward, we got together to talk about it all: what went wrong, why there was so much full-frontal cadaver nudity, and if the Rock is our last true movie star.

1. What is your tweet-length review of ‘Baywatch’?

Bill Simmons: I have season tickets for all of the Rock’s movies. This was a rare 25-point blowout loss at home; I should have left after the third quarter. It happens. I’m still renewing my Rock season tickets.

Donnie Kwak: Marginally better than CHiPs. But put the Rock in a brown highway-patrol outfit and even that movie could’ve been saved.

Andrew Gruttadaro: Like the show, just more disjointed and with way more dick jokes.

Lindsay Zoladz: Literally no one asked for this.

Kate Knibbs: Why no Yasmine Bleeth cameo?

Megan Schuster: I walked out of the theater after seeing Baywatch and immediately joined six gyms.

Juliet Litman: Starsky & Hutch with the Rock and Zef would have been better.

K. Austin Collins: I "can’t believe" this bombed!

2. What was the best moment of the film?

Litman: When the original Baywatch theme song played over the Hoff’s appearance. And every reference to Flakka. How 2015!

Collins: I liked the opening — it gives the Rock the chance to be smooth.

Gruttadaro: When the dorky lifeguard said Priyanka Chopra was like J. Edgar Hoover and Zac Efron replied, with the utmost confidence, "The vacuum guy." It was the only time I laughed while visiting the Bay, which is what I call "watching Baywatch."


Kwak: Major Lazer’s "Get Free" was my favorite song of 2012 and I had almost entirely forgotten about it — until the opening credits of Baywatch. Great tune.

Knibbs: I loved the opening, in which the audience is introduced to the Rock–as–Mitch Buchannon with just the right combination of slo-mo beefcake shots and cheesy humor.

Simmons: I took my kids because they love the Rock and support all things Rock. The guy selling tickets asked if we knew it was rated R and I said yes, then asked if there was anything bad in there that I should be worried about. (I already knew the answer because I researched it on the internet.) The guy said the movie had about 100 F-bombs and full-frontal male nudity. My son responded, "Shit, that’s nothing." He’s 9 and a half. They laughed and let us in. The second-best part was when my son fell asleep 50 minutes into the movie — not because he was tired, but because Baywatch was terrible. The third-best part was when the movie ended. I also thought the story line about Zac Efron’s character being a disgraced Olympic gold medalist was chuckle-worthy. And I liked when the Rock disappeared for like 20 minutes in the last third of the movie because he clearly had to film a Ballers episode and couldn’t be in two places at the same time. I don’t want to say the Rock mailed this movie in, but the Rock totally mailed this movie in.

Zoladz: About five minutes before it was over, my friend leaned over and said, "What if at the end they reveal that this whole thing has just been a dog’s dream?" and I laughed harder at that than anything in the movie.

3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?

Gruttadaro: So let me get this straight: The Rock was a lifeguard named Mitch Buchannon, but existed in the same universe as the original Baywatch, a world in which there was already a lifeguard named Mitch Buchannon? And they knew each other? Also, isn’t Kelly Rohrbach’s character, who is named C.J. Parker, absolutely flabbergasted at the end when Pamela Anderson — WHO IS ALSO NAMED C.J. PARKER — shows up?

Zoladz: This was a movie based on the odd assumption that if the men were all there to see slow-motion boobs, then it follows that the women were all there to see dicks. Lots of them; one of them on a dead guy, even. I would like to inform the creators of Baywatch that this is not an even trade. At all.

Kwak: The early scene in which Ronnie gets his frank-and-beans stuck in a picnic table is so breathtakingly stupid that it almost defies belief. Any momentum the movie had built until that point totally evaporates. The other scene in which Ronnie is caught naked in the shower singing Katy Perry is almost as unfunny. Skilled script doctors would’ve clipped both of those bits.

Also, the CGI in the boat-on-fire scene was laughably bad.

Simmons: That’s like asking what’s your least favorite part of a Knicks season. But I’d have to go with the doughy comic-relief guy because it never stopped feeling like they had to scramble for a replacement after Josh Gad cancelled at the last minute. And he had sex with Kelly Rohrbach at the end! Come on. If you’re going to honor the original Baywatch TV series, you have to know that C.J. never had sex with dorks or anyone who wasn’t in great shape. That was just the rule.

Litman: Was it really necessary to put Zac Efron in the morgue drawer and have a weird substance drop on his face?

Schuster: Catchphrases in movies like these are incredibly important. A classic catchphrase can help a silly summer movie be remembered long after its time. So, knowing this, what did the writers of Baywatch choose as the Rock’s lasting impression?

"I’m oceanic, motherfucker."

Do better.

4. The Rock vs. Efron: Who ya got?

Litman: The greatest sin of Baywatch was not exploiting the triple-threat nature of both guys. These men are entertainers. If we’re judging on the strength of this movie alone, it’s got to be Zef. He absorbed and reacted to every insulting name the Rock threw out with grace and ease. If we’re talking about who should headline his own movie, it’s still gotta be Dwayne, with Moana as the debate ender.

Kwak: I think they both met (the extremely low) expectations for their roles in this movie, so it’s a draw.

Schuster: Zac was fun, and he played his role as the douchey Olympic swimmer with a bad barfing streak and even worse interpersonal skills well. But this answer will always be the Rock.

Knibbs: The Rock! I love Efron but he looked dehydrated.

Simmons: The Rock, obviously. I like them both, but Efron needs to figure out how to successfully play the cocky/down-on-his-luck/own-worst-enemy hero because that was a full decade of Tom Cruise’s career — Cruise circa 1986 would have been phenomenal in this movie and raised the unintentional comedy bar to new heights. Every Cruise trying-too-hard running/swimming scene would have been hilarious, and it would have been even funnier to watch him flirt with Alexandra Daddario (whose career emerged from this movie unscathed, by the way). That was the magic of Tom Cruise. Poor Efron doesn’t bring the same level of unintentional comedy to the table. He’s still the most obvious choice for Maverick in a Top Gun remake, but Efron is by no means the LeBron to Cruise’s MJ. He’s too self-aware.

Collins: It’s a draw, honestly.

Zoladz: The Rock, if only because the screenwriters spared him from having to play out a dated, feature-length Ryan Lochte joke. Zac Efron, as ever, deserves so much better than this.

5. Finish the sentence: "Priyanka Chopra as the villain was …"

Collins: … definitely in the movie!

Zoladz: … the only person in this movie playing it with the right level of camp? And also using the whole thing as an audition tape to play a Bond villain someday? Good for her.

Simmons: … enjoyable! I was rooting for her to kill everyone off and gain control of the Bay because that would mean we’d never get a sequel.

Kwak: … underutilized but very beautiful.

Gruttadaro: … too good for the movie. When they made her make that "I’m not a Bond villain yet" joke it just made me sad, because can’t we just fast-forward to that moment now?

Knibbs: … slinky but not super memorable.

Litman: … underutilized. She should be the villain in the female Ocean’s Eleven reboot. Is there time for reshoots?

6. What did ‘Baywatch’ need more of? Less of?

Kwak: I wish Hannibal Buress and Jon Bass switched roles. Also, they could’ve given Alexandra Daddario more to do.

Knibbs: More good jokes. Less everything else.

Zoladz: More actual comedians. Fewer dicks.

Schuster: More beachside rescue scenes, Sean Paul songs. Less attempts at actual crime solving, images of genitalia.

Simmons: If you’re going for an "R," you need way more nudity and raunchiness. I have no idea why they didn’t just make it PG-13. Overall, they didn’t really commit to anything. It’s a half-assed action movie with half-assed raunchiness that isn’t really funny. You know what this was? A great airplane movie. You wouldn’t care if the pilot kept interrupting you, you wouldn’t have to totally follow the plot, you could fall asleep at any point, and you wouldn’t have to be worried that the person sitting next to you thought you were a pervert for watching a movie loaded with nudity.

Gruttadaro: More Hasselhoff. And like 75 percent less smarmy self-awareness.

Collins: I would just like to point out that we spend more time ogling the women than we do the men — who were barely shirtless! Very disappointing. On the other hand, Zac’s He-Man body is a giant no from me — it distracts from his charm — so maybe we’re better off.

Litman: More camp and kitsch, less booming bass. More California, far less Florida. More melodrama, less cadaver humor.

7. How could they do Hannibal Buress like that?

Zoladz: That was ice cold! Not only was he denied the opportunity to play a humorous death scene, but we never even found out which gigantic sea beast took that gnarly bite out of his arm. Cruel.

Schuster: This bothered me for two very distinct reasons:

  1. Hannibal’s talents were terribly underused in a movie that needed some genuinely funny comedy.
  2. I would greatly appreciate it if the entertainment industry would stop using my shark spirit animals as scapegoat villains.

Knibbs: They treated 2017 Hannibal Buress like he was 2013 Hannibal Buress and it was a waste of the funniest cast member.

Litman: The worst part is his character was named "Dave the Tech."

Simmons: It genuinely hurt my feelings.

8. Is the Rock our last bona fide movie star?

Litman: Yes.

Schuster: Tom Hanks exists, so no.

Collins: Of course not!

Kwak: He’s about as dependable as it gets for elevating "unwatchable" to "tolerable."

Knibbs: Nah. In fact, I still think Efron has time to become a great movie star.

Simmons: I still have Leo and Damon up there, too. But only the Rock can defeat Trump.

Zoladz: Nah — David Hasselhoff is.

9. What should happen in the sequel?

Litman: No thanks.

Collins: Rising sea levels, hopefully.

Zoladz: It’s just a documentary about the Rock and David Hasselhoff hanging out.

Gruttadaro: They should pretend like the first movie never happened and try to remake the first Baywatch movie, only it’s better this time.

Schuster: One of my biggest complaints about this iteration of Baywatch is that so much of it took place away from the beach. The morgue scene, the club night, the various arguments in police offices and Baywatch headquarters, were all designed to further the plot (I guess), because the criminal activity centered on a land-based organization (the Huntley). So, to remedy that, this time let’s make the conflict happen out on the water. Lose someone at sea. Find bottles with creepy messages all along the shore. Wash Tom Hanks up on the beach with a volleyball and task the team with finding out who marooned him on an island in the first place (I know that’s not the exact plot of Cast Away, but we’re modifying here). All I ask is that we keep Baywatch a little more focused on the Bay.

Kwak: Call it Baywatch: Battle of the Beach and introduce a rival lifeguard squad led by Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez — and Michael Phelps. Who says no?

Knibbs: The sequel should definitely be Baywatch Nights themed.

Simmons: They shouldn’t make it. (Pause.) Wait, they’re not really making a sequel, right? (Googling.) Oh, Jesus.