Film Review: “Baywatch”

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 56 mins

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Before I begin I want to tell you a story. I’ve only seen one episode of the “Baywatch” television show. It was at my friend Marty Kircher’s house and I couldn’t believe how someone of his age (late 30’s) could find the show interesting. The part I remember most was a scene with David Hasselhoff climbing on board a boat which had a man tied up in the middle of it. “What the hell is he doing,” I asked, “he’s a damn LIFEGUARD!” As if on cue, the Hoff looks into the camera and says, “I haven’t seen this much C-4 since my time in the Navy Seals.” Marty turns to me and says, “See! He was a NAVY SEAL!” Thankfully the makers of the new “Baywatch” film don’t take their movie as seriously as Marty would.

Mitch Buchannon (Johnson) is the main man on the beach. With summer starting it’s time for Mitch and his fellow lifeguards to pick three young wannabes to learn the ropes. He is surprised when former Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Efron) shows up and announces he’s now a “part of the team.” Stuck with Matt, Mitch also chooses Summer Quinn (Daddario) and Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass) to complete his trio of newbies. Summer seems to have the skills necessary to save lives. Ronnie…well, Ronnie has heart! And that’s all you need to be a part of “Baywatch!”

Consistently funny with a few slow spots, “Baywatch” thankfully follows the formula that other television-shows-to-movies like “21 Jump Street” have in that it doesn’t take itself TOO seriously. Leading this charge is Johnson, who seems to want to let us know that it’s OK to laugh at things we find funny. And Johnson has fun as well, making fun of the new guard. Brody, who is surely inspired by American Olympian Ryan Locte, has rubbed Mitch wrong and Mitch confirms this by calling Brody pretty much everything BUT his name. One Direction. Bieber. High School Musical. Brody answers to all three and more. Completing the team are Kelly Rohrbach as C.J. and Ilfenish Hadera as Stephanie. Together they must investigate the recent growing of a new drug kingpin without attracting the wrath of the local police, who look upon the lifesaving gang with spite.

Both Johnson and Efron are well cast. I don’t know why but every time Johnson came on screen I began thinking about his character, Maui, from “Moana.” Efron, who reportedly exercised himself down to 5% body fat, plays up the “swimming Bad Boy” character for laughs, though as the film progresses you do begin to feel a little affinity for him. The supporting cast is also funny but I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special shout out to Jon Bass, who steals the film as Ronnie. And if you fans of the television series keep your eyes peeled, you may spot a familiar face or two.

All in all, a fun film you should wait 15 minutes after eating to see!

Film Review: “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”

Starring: Zac Efron, Adam DeVine, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza
Directed By: Jake Szymanski
Rated: R
Running Time: 98 minutes
20th Century Fox

Our Score: 1.5 out of 5 Stars

You ever watch a comedy in theaters and feel like you’ve watched one of the funniest movies of the year, only to watch it home by yourself or with a couple of friends and wonder what the hell happened? Sometimes you have to factor in audience reaction because there actually is some science behind laughter being contagious. When it happens, it really does make you feel ashamed for “enjoying” something so bad. I feel like this will happen a lot after the unfortunate few out there check out “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.

Someone in Hollywood must have thought that a female version of “Wedding Crashers” would prove that women can be just as raunchy. But we’ve already learned this lesson from “Bridesmaids” and “Trainwreck”. The people behind “Mike and Dave” must have not have watched either of those movies because they don’t realize that vulgarity needs heart and that they need two people that can sell their ostentatious characters. Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza are not the actresses that can pull of the daunting task that Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn barely pulled off back in 2005.

The pot smoking, going nowhere in life, Millennials, Alice (Kendrick) and Tatiana (Plaza) are watching daytime TV when they spot Mike (DeVine) and Dave (Efron). The brothers are well dressed, charming, and looking for wedding dates. Their way of going about it draws national attention because they put up an ad on Craigslist and are soon hit up by every male and female gold digger in their vicinity.

But what most of the potential wedding dates don’t know is that the brothers are also losers. They work as mediocre sales representatives for a whiskey company no one’s ever heard of. They get high and constantly make buffoons of themselves at private family events. That’s why their parents have given them an ultimatum that they need dates before attending their sister’s wedding. As to how finding two women to go to Hawaii for a wedding will straighten out these two good-for-nothings is beyond me. Even more bizarre is the parents believe such an outlandish plan could ever work.

The comedy and bulk of the movie is built on the idea that Alice and Tatiana will be conning Mike and Dave the entire trip, with everything going wrong. But from the get-go, Mike and Dave should have realized that Tatiana is not smart enough to reportedly be an elementary school teacher and Alice is too verbally incoherent to allegedly handle a hedge fund (especially when she can’t explain what one is). There’s also the problem, that in the Internet age, Mike and Dave do zero social media research on the two.

I get a lot of flak for my distaste for “Wedding Crashers”, but I admit that it’s endearing because it’s about two cynical men realizing that it’s time to grow up. There’s really no growing up or learning curve in “Mike and Dave”. Unless you count Plaza abandoning her terrible Brooklyn accent after 10 minutes or the filmmakers realizing towards the end that Efron is at the beach and he needs to take his shirt off. “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” has four actors that have no chemistry and are recycling vulgar jokes and punchlines from much better films. This movie should have been called “Zac, Aubrey, Adam and Anna Wanted to go to Hawaii”.

Film Review: “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”

Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and Rose Byrne
Directed By: Nicholas Stoller
Rated: R
Running Time:   1 hour 35 minutes
Universal Pictures

Our Rating 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Did “Neighbors” need a sequel? Absolutely not. It didn’t even end with a cliffhanger or any storyline that would necessitate the need for a second. But in today’s theater age, profit=sequel. Of course I may further incite the need for a “Neighors 3” with the following statement. Despite the same plot, and a gender swap out, “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is funnier and even more charming than the first.

A couple of years after the events of “Neighbors”, Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) are expecting their second child and looking to move into a more spacious home. With the fraternity no longer hosting raging keggers, they find a buyer with no problem. The only problem is escrow. Since I’m not a homeowner, nor have I attempted to buy one yet in my life, I was unsure as to what escrow means. Apparently Mac and Kelly don’t either. It means that the buyers can change their mind in 30 days if there’s something they don’t see fit about the home. Of course this could easily just be a plotline convenience created by the movie.

Coincidentally, the old fraternity house is about to become alive with again with a sorority. Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) are sick of the generic sororities, at least the typical Greek life tropes the movie portrays. Instead of conformity, forced cheeriness and male degradation, the trio creates their own sorority meant to empower their inner-lioness. Obviously a bunch of screaming girls, hosting their own raging keggers, doesn’t sit well with Mac and Kelly. The rest of “Neighbors 2” is the various hijinks and escalating pranks that happen between the two warring neighbors.

The first “Neighbors”, which I didn’t like, was about the bond of men in college as well as learning to grow up. “Neighbors 2” has the girls at an age of 18, so we can’t really expect them to “grow up”. Instead we get a more meaningful theme of acceptance and empowerment. Even the grossest scene of the movie, the sorority sisters throwing used tampons at Mac and Kelly’s home, is a lesson. Albeit a blood soaked, gross lesson. I know that might be hard to believe, but trust me.

There are the typical cheap laughs that we’ve come to expect from a Rogen comedy. I guess we’re supposed to laugh at Rogen being fat, people getting high, vomit on the face during sex, and other tired jokes. It actually makes the tampon scene feel a lot cleverer in retrospect. It’s socially aware enough to make us feel guilty about laughing or make us actually develop a thought while laughing.

It’s just unfortunate that such an enlightening movie has to hammer home its theme at nearly every chance it can get. It’s nice to see that the five male writers were willing to flip the script and poke fun at the overtly sexual nature of college men who see women as objects. But I think at least a sixth writer, preferably female, could have helped these guys guide their justified moral outrage in funnier, more unique, and in less, obvious ways.

Teddy (Efron) is back as a man-child who still can’t grow up. He serves as the mentor for the sorority at the beginning and switches sides when he’s disowned by the sisterhood. Watching Teddy grow as a person during the movie is most character development an Efron character has ever seen. In that sense, and others, “Neighbors 2” surprised me a lot. I was expecting a lazy rehash, but I have to give credit where credit is due; the six-man writing team realizes that a little empathy for all their characters can go a long way.