It’s still spring for another month. But can we just crown Dwayne Johnson king of the summer already?
The lovable action star has already steered The Fate Of The Furious to a $1.2 billion worldwide gross (let’s admit, when it comes to sheer likability he leaves Vin Diesel in the dust) and now he delivers what’s sure to be the summer’s biggest comedy, Baywatch.
Baywatch, folks! Making a decent movie out of the tacky, tasteless lifeguard TV show—a series so bland and vacuous it was a big hit in 150 countries around the world—is harder than crafting an Oscar winner from a heart-tugging true story.
Dwayne Johnson with Alexandra Daddario who plays new recruit Summer
Do you “respect” the source material or try and reinvent it and risk a car crash—or motorcycle crash—like Dax Shepard’s dire CHiPS reboot?
What tone do you take? How do you deliver what the fans want—ie, a feast of gratuitous bikini shots—without appearing dangerously dated and sexist.
In a word, you call up The Rock.
Johnson can reach parts other movie stars can only dream of. Yes he can deliver action—his pecs are practically a national monument—but he can also do the humor and the warmth (in a word, the humanity) other beefcake stars can only dream of.
Damn it, Dwayne Johnson’s just about the most likable movie star on the planet—humorous, self-deprecating, decent—and he brings the feel good factor to Baywatch by the bucket and spade load.
You can’t help smiling at the dumb sincerity with which he plays chief lifeguard, Mitch Buchannon (immortalized in the TV show by The Hoff who makes an amusing cameo at a key moment).
Johnson’s Mitch takes deep pride in his work keeping sunbathers safe and treats his team of physically perfect colleagues like family. “Baywatch is more than a job, it’s a way of life” he insists with all the gravitas of a US President.
When an official from the city council is found dead aboard a blazing yacht, Mitch suspects foul play and decides to turn detective and save the bay from what turns out to be a real-estate grab by Priyanka’s Chopra preening villainess Victoria Leeds.
Why? Because he cares! Oh, and because the police in the hilarious form of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s easily offended Sergeant Ellerbee have better things to do than worry about “swim-happy white people.”
The new Baywatch lifeguard squad hits the beach
The only problem? Zac Efron’s new recruit Matt Brody, a disgraced former Olympic swimmer, isn’t a team player and thinks they should stick to their brief parading about in their bathing suits.
Give the former High School Musical star his due as well. Not only is he chiselled to perfection but with this and Bad Neighbours he has a flair for comedy, notably playing characters of limited intellectual capacity.
The chemistry between him and Johnson is almost as good as that between Efron and Alexandra Daddario’s hottie lifeguard Summer Quinn.
So who else can challenge Dwayne Johnson as the most engaging all round movie star? Tom Cruise is now too robotic. Brad Pitt too spaced out. Robert Downey Jr. too edgy. George Clooney too self-important.
If it’s pure summer fun you want, it’s Dwayne Johnson you go to, as moviegoers do time and again. Last summer, he enjoyed another double whammy with Moana and Central Intelligence, an enjoyable action comedy which over-performed at the box office. The year before that he had Furious 7 and San Andreas.
It’s official: Dwayne Johnson owns the summer. And if he does, as teased, decide to run for President of the USA, he could own the country too.