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'Baywatch' 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review: Babes, beefcakes and a budding bromance on the beach

August 22, 2017Ben MK

A comically-themed reboot of the 1990s TV series made famous by its slow-motion shots of bikini-clad women, Baywatch follows in the footsteps of movies like 21 Jump Street and CHIPS, casting Dwayne Johnson in the role of Mitch Buchannon, the larger-than-life head lifeguard who watches over the shores of Emerald Bay. A legend among beachgoers, as well as fellow lifeguards Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera) and CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach), Mitch has singlehandedly saved dozens of lives. But he's about to get his world turned upside down.

Enter Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a disgraced Olympic swimmer whose drunken antics have earned him the nickname "the vomit comet," not to mention a community service sentence to be spent being a pain in Mitch's ass. Long story short, Matt and Mitch aren't exactly on the same wavelength. But when drugs and dead bodies start washing up on the beach, the pair are forced to put aside their differences, as Matt and new trainees Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) and Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass) are given a crash course in surf-and-sand crime-fighting.

Directed by Seth Gordon, Baywatch admittedly doesn't have a lot to live up to. After all, the original show may have ran for a surprisingly lengthy 11 seasons, but for the average moviegoer, the series' cultural legacy begins and ends with the words "red" and "swimsuit." That being said, the amount of creative freedom this film version benefits from proves to be both a boon and a curse, as screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift end up squandering the opportunity, delivering what is ultimately a cookie-cutter story that struggles to justify its running time.

The other problem with Baywatch lies with its jokes, which belongs in the shallow end of the kids' wading pool. Far too reliant on f-bombs and penis gags, it's as if the filmmakers figured that cranking up the movie's raunchiness quotient would suffice as a replacement for actual humor. Sadly, it does not, and in the end, not even the raucously enjoyable chemistry between Johnson and Efron, nor the obligatory cameos from David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson, can save this otherwise over-tanned and over-sexed adaptation.

Baywatch swims ashore sporting a fantastically eye-popping 4K presentation. Details are nicely resolved, whether it's the beads of water glistening on the lifeguards' bodies or the individual grains of sand on the beach, and the red swimsuits are more vibrant than ever, thanks to the healthy uptick in color fidelity provided by the HDR upgrade. As for the accompanying Dolby Atmos sound mix, it makes short work of the dialogue, hip hop music and lapping waves that dominate the sound design, but it definitely knows when to kick things up a notch, such as in action sequences featuring ATVs, jet skis and an explosive fireworks show.

Paramount's two-disc Ultra HD Blu-ray release includes both the theatrical version and an extended cut, an iTunes/Ultraviolet digital copy and a Blu-ray copy of the film. There are no special features on the 4K disc, but the following extras can be found on the Blu-ray:

  • Meet the Lifeguards (21:36) - The cast talk about their characters and working with each other.
  • Continuing the Legacy (9:27) - The cast and crew talk about being fans of the original TV series and reinventing it for the big screen, from the humor and the tone, to the action set-pieces, to the cameos.
  • Stunts & Training (9:09) - The cast talk about the physicality of their roles, riding jet skis, ATVs and brawling for the camera.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes (10:06) - Six scenes ("CJ Messes with Stephanie," "Coffee and Doughnuts," "Where Could I Score?," "Bathroom Misunderstanding," "Directions to the Morgue" and "Brody and Captain Thorpe").

Baywatch is available from Paramount Home Entertainment as of August 29th, 2017. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray features English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 56 Mins. (Theatrical) and 2 Hrs. 1 Min. (Extended).

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on May 25th, 2017.

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