How ‘BAYWATCH’ (2017) Failed By Not Getting What Made ’21 JUMP STREET’ (2012) So Awesome
Capitalizing on current trends is the smart move for any industry. The film industry even more so. It’s been the case for decades. A new idea makes the rounds and is proven to be successful, so everyone else tries to cash in on the craze. The astounding success of ‘Strangers Things’ definitely contributed to the green lighting of the current box office smash hit in the ‘It’ remake. The success of the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise saw the adaptation of hundreds of Young Adult books into films. So definitely not a bad thing to cash in on a craze. At least when you understand what made the craze successful in the first place.
How the makers of ‘Baywatch’ completely failed to grasp the reason behind their own remake.
’21 Jump Street’ was one of those 90’s prime time TV shows with a far fetched concept that made sense at the time. A police department full of cops that looked like teenagers, infiltrating high schools and cracking down on street crime. It was an awesome procedural before the concept existed, and featured Johnny Depp as the baby faced lead. So when directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller decided to adapt the premise into a movie, they knew very well the line they had to tread.
’21 Jump Street’ was remade as a satire of itself, and other film adaptations of ridiculous concepts, and it reveled in it. The idea that police officers pretending to be students, socializing and ‘hanging’ with underage teenagers was a laughable, if not utterly inappropriate idea. And everyone involved knew it. And the movie was made with that approach. The characters, plot points and over all story mocked the premise, and not one person took is seriously.
With actual high schoolers commenting on the fact that Channing Tatum looked 30, to the caricature of a high strung police captain that Ice Cube played, to even the actual idea being mocked by Nick Offerman’s character in the beginning of the film, ’21 Jump Street’ was self awareness personified. The characters having to deal with how the social norms, progression of youth culture from their own time in high school to present day was a great analogy to the decades passed between the original TV show and the movie. So much of the comedy was derived from this disconnect of how cliques used to be, and the rise of geek culture with comic books being cool and the fact that no one ‘one shoulders’ their backpack anymore. Lord, Miller and the screenwriter Michael Bacall made it a point to infuse the film with everything that could be used as an argument to never adapt such a story. However, ’21 Jump Street’ was so successful, specifically for these reasons, that the movie went on to spawn a sequel, and is considered one of the best TV to movie adaptations.
Naturally a string of other movies followed, deeming to cash in on, what they thought was a craze. The biggest of which was released earlier this year, and made the biggest splash ever, as it drowned a disappointing death.
‘Baywatch’ had everything going for it. One of the biggest Hollywood stars in the lead role. Many unknown hotties sprinkled through out as supporting characters. Some impressive comedic talent on screen. And the Hollywood debut of a massive Bollywood star and lead of a hit American TV Series. But none of it was able to save the movie from being one of the biggest disappointments of 2017.
The reason: No one behind ‘Baywatch‘ seems to understand what made ’21 Jump Street’ great. Instead, they chose an outlandish premise for an action-comedy movie in 2017, and took it 100% seriously. The movie played out less like a comedy, but a bad 90’s drama, which ironically is when the original TV show was done. So to re-do the same dated premise, with a straight face for a 2017 audience, made absolutely no sense.
In a scene where the rookie of the group, Zac Effron’s Matt is telling the rest of the bikini clad crew that they should leave the criminal investigations to the police, what ensues is one of the movie’s most ridiculous scenes; but unfortunately, it’s not played for the comedy. Dwayne Johnson’s Mitch, and the rest of his ‘beach avengers’, (no seriously, that what he calls his crew during promotions) explain to Matt how it’s their job to solve crimes that take them completely away from doing their actual job, which is to be lifeguards. They then list a series of the most convoluted crimes involving the beach, that may very well have been throwbacks to actual episodes of the original TV Series, but they’re 100% serious about it. No Jokes. Well, except for Matt pointing out himself that they sound like they’re describing a TV show, but by that time the joke isn’t funny.
It’s not funny because the audience isn’t supposed to laugh at what Mitch and his crew do through out the movie, but instead, believe in the danger and the stakes, and root for them, as lifeguards, to take on the evil drug dealing 2 dimensional villain that runs the country club on the beach. For what was marketed as an action-comedy, there also is no humour delivered from anyone in the movie other than the one character that is supposed to be comic relief. Not because he’s funny, but because he’s the only one of the group that doesn’t have a chiseled body, is completely unqualified to be on the team, and is only there for his ‘heart’. So for a movie with two leading men with abs who spent a lot of the movie grunting and felzing, and a plethora of babes with beach bodies, the funny guy is the one doesn’t look good with his shirt off. Which is even a joke at one point.
’21 Jump Street’ could get away with drug dealing high school gym teachers, cops stealing drugs from evidence to throw a high school jam, solely because everything from the beginning to end of the movie is so incredibly outrageous, the audiences buy into the next outrageous thing that much more willingly. But when ‘Baywatch’ fails in conveying the same sense of humor, portrays its lead as a superhero in the opening sequence, followed by constantly trying to get us to buy that lifeguards solve crimes, despite the fact that the beach is constantly left unmanned because the only lifeguards there are running around getting drunk, fighting and making out in the name of crime fighting.
‘Baywatch’s failure has less to do with the shortcoming of any one person, (writer, actor, director) but a collective failure to understand why movies like ’21 Jump Street’, succeeded in tweaking a dramatic premise, completely unbelievable on paper, into an entertaining and stupifying watch. And that’s when cashing in on a craze becomes detrimental to the final product. When trying to replicate the success of other content, results in a superficial imitation like ‘Baywatch‘, instead of what could have genuinely been a satirical take on a memorable and beloved 90’s TV show.