Kevin: There are a number of benefits that come with staying at a nice hotel: room service, having someone else make your bed, finding a chocolate on your pillow, etc. There is also the opportunity to pay twice the cost of a ticket to order a movie you could have seen in theaters a few weeks earlier, this time on a screen 1/1000th the size. I’ve done quite a bit of hotel living in the last few weeks and caught three such recent films that I skipped in theaters, and since you probably missed them too I’ll let you know which are worth tracking down when they come out on DVD and VOD. First up:
They say comedy is subjective, but “they” obviously haven’t seen “Baywatch,” because this movie is objectively awful. I know, we all love The Rock: charming, funny, charismatic, all in one handsome and extremely muscular package. We all love bacon too, but if it was served to us in a shit-stained toilet we’d enjoy it a lot less, and that’s what “Baywatch” represents when it comes to testing our love for Dwayne Johnson.
Rather than go through the by-the-numbers plot (the Baywatch gang have to stop a drug runner from taking over the beach, yada yada), I’ll just highlight one scene in particular which perfectly epitomizes this movie’s tired and hacky comedic sensibility, involving an awkward and lovesick schlub who 10 years ago would have been played by Dan Fogler, and five years ago by Josh Gad, but since they are now too good for a role like this (let that sink in for a moment), is now played by someone named Jon Bass.
His character Ronnie and his buddy, played by comedian Hannibal Buress, observe lifeguard C.J. (model Kelly Rohrbach) running along the beach. But before Ronnie can say something to the girl he has an almost obsessive and frankly disturbing crush on, he starts chocking on some food, leading to one of those “hilarious” Heimlich maneuver scenes that bad comedies are so fond of (apparently on the Wheel of Fucked-Out Comedic Premises, the needle landed on that after just going past “Guy gets bit near the dick by rattlesnake and needs someone to suck out the poison”).
Speaking of dicks, apparently being touched by C.J. even while almost chocking to death is enough to give him a massive erection, and he does what any of us would do in that situation by overreacting wildly and leaping onto a wooden beach chair:
(You can get an idea of Bass’ subtle acting style at the beginning of this clip in which he mugs for the camera while holding a card stating that “Baywatch” is the number one comedy in the UK so far, which is the kind of thing you only celebrate when your movie shit the bed – something I’m surprised Bass’ character didn’t have to do in “Baywatch” – in the United States.)
Now I expected this scene to end with that bit of comedic dick trauma and move on, but no, as you see there is much much more. When Ronnie lands on the chair, both his penis and testicles somehow go completely through one of the spaces between the wooden slats and get stuck. Apparently no one who had anything to do with this scene actually has a penis and testicles, because if they did they would have pointed out that the whole underlying premise for this drawn out gag is fucking ridiculous. The rest of the scene eventually peters out (no pun intended) after what feels like 10 minutes, which doesn’t help when your lightweight summer comedy is TWO HOURS long!
Actually now that I think about it, nothing involving Ronnie makes any sense. The Rock never shuts up about how awesome and elite Baywatch is, to the point of being incensed that Zac Efron’s character thinks he has a shot at the team just because he’s a champion swimmer (leading The Rock to constantly refer to him by insulting nicknames like “Boy Band” and “High School Musical,” a gag that does not get any funnier by the 48th time). Yet later he gives one of the coveted lifeguard slots to Ronnie merely because he “sees something in him.” Hopefully he sees a good attorney after getting sued by the families of the people who drowned because a clearly out of shape and unqualified person was tasked with saving them.
Then completely out of nowhere we find out that Hannibal Buress is also a computer expert working for the villain (Priyanka Chopra), but when he is killed and his dead body washes up on the beach his supposed friend Ronnie makes no mention of this and is apparently totally unaffected. Later we discover another character is also secretly working for the bad guys, but I had no clue who the hell they were referring to until he showed up at the end (Spoiler: It’s Rob Huebel).
I do have to give credit to Zac Efron for actually landing most of the movie’s few laughs, even as it’s hard to look at his disgustingly roided out body. I’ve actually come around on him lately, especially after enjoying last year’s “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” and while he’s not the most versatile comedic actor, he’s likeable, gives it his all, and isn’t afraid of playing dumb (perhaps because playing smart would be too much of a stretch for him). He actually sells his character’s redemption arc, and if nothing else he should be commended for agreeing to take part in two of the movie’s other horrible gags:
- Late in the movie he and The Rock have to go undercover into a kitchen that is being used to store drugs. While The Rock disguises himself as a chef, Efron dresses as a woman for no other reason than “Baywatch” will leave no lazy comedy stone unturned.
- While examining a dead body in a coroner’s office, Efron has to lift the dead man’s penis and testicles in order to closely examine his “taint.” So yes that’s two drawn out gags involving penises, while later we get to see Bass’ naked rear end. But if you’re one of those dude-bro, frat-bro, Gamergate-bro, bro-bros who went into an R-rated version of “Baywatch” hoping to see some female nudity, you’ll probably find more of that in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
At least the movie doesn’t treat the cameos by the stars of the TV show as some surprise; both David Hasselhoff’s and Pamela Anderson’s names are prominently featured in the opening credits, even though Anderson only shows up at the very end and has no lines (is it possible she’s gotten worse as an actress?). But considering his popularity in countries like Germany and Austria is being credited with salvaging at least some of Paramount’s investment in the “Baywatch” movie, the studio would have probably been better off releasing a Hoff-starring update of his bizarro mid-‘90s spin-off “Baywatch Nights.”
The second movie I watched was the most ironically named, as most people have probably already forgotten that it came out last April. But while I wasn’t expecting much, it turns out that “Unforgettable” was far more successful than “Baywatch” at being the kind of movie it set out to be, in this case a sleazy and old-school erotic thriller in the mold of “Poison Ivy” or “Single White Female.”
It’s obvious we are in for a cheesy good time from the start when it’s clear the filmmakers have no idea how people in the real world live and make money. For instance, Rosario Dawson’s character Julia is apparently able to make a living wage writing short stories from home for a popular online fiction website, something that is more fantastical in 2017 than anything in “Lord of the Rings.”
We are also told that her fiancée used to work for Merrill Lynch before quitting to run a brewery, which apparently allows him to purchase multiple mansions in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I’ll give the filmmakers credit for not going the usual movie route of making him an architect (real architects must laugh at the fact that Hollywood assumes they are always rich and have abundant free time).
The movie opens with Julia moving in with her fiancée and meeting his ex-wife, who we know immediately is pure evil because she constantly shows up unannounced, tries to manipulate her daughter against her ex, and is played by Katherine Heigl. I find it admirable that, whether due to self-awareness or a lack of job offers, Heigl goes balls out portraying the kind of cold conniving beeyatch that most people assume she is in real life. Heigl’s public image has never really recovered from her calling the writing on her hit TV show “Grey’s Anatomy” mediocre and accusing Judd Apatow of making his female characters one-note shrews, with both statements being as ill-advised career-wise as they were kind of accurate.
Either way Heigl’s character Tessa discovers Julia is fleeing an abusive relationship, the extent of which apparently involved some guy in front of a brick wall yelling at her since that’s all we see in the flashbacks. Tessa then decides to do her own version of Cyrano de Bergerac by bringing these two dysfunctional former lovebirds together through a fake Facebook account in Julia’s name (apparently this dude never wonders why Julia has no other Facebook friends or anything else other than a profile pic).
I won’t give away whether Heigl lives or dies, but I did enjoy that the movie gives us its own version of the typical horror film closing scare, like when the killer grabs Jennifer Love Hewitt before the end credits. Except according to the conclusion of “Unforgettable,” the only thing scarier than a crazy ex-wife is a crazy ex-mother-in-law, which is something many of us can relate to.
I’m not gonna call this great art, but if you watch this with some friends over wine you are guaranteed to have a good time. Plus there is a scene that cross-cuts between Rosario Dawson getting laid in a bathroom and Katherine Heigl diddling herself while chatting on Facebook. How many movies have you seen lately with that?
Post Script: I also caught most of “Snatched” after my wife ordered it while I was running errands; not much to say except that from what I saw it was funnier than I expected, and Goldie Hawn’s comedic timing is still so good it’s insane that this was her first movie in 15 years. So in conclusion, if you want to laugh watch “Snatched,” if you want a fun thriller watch “Unforgettable,” and if you want a bad comedic version of a cheesy TV show you should watch “ChiPs” I guess because it can’t be any worse than “Baywatch.”