Tag Archives: zac efron

The Unfunny ‘Baywatch’ Isn’t Worth a Watch

Baywatch_posterStudios really need to stop trying to capture the “21 Jump Street” lightning in a bottle…


“Baywatch” is the R-rated big screen adaptation of the 1990s television series. Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario star as members of a Florida lifeguard team that find drugs on their beach and take it upon themselves to investigate. Priyanka Chopra, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass and Ilfenesh Hadera also star as Seth Gordon directs.


Adapting old TV shows into movies is nothing new, and taking a premise of a series and turning it into an over-the-top PG-13 or R-rated romp isn’t revolutionary, either. But ever since “21 Jump Street” burst onto the scene in 2012, studios have been trying (and failing) to duplicate its commercial and critical success. Even two months ago we had “CHIPS,” an unfunny and mean spirited film based on the California cops show from 1980. This time, we have Paramount casting Zac Efron and The Rock and sinking $69 million (more on that insane budget in a second) into a property they think people will recognize, however what they fail to do is surround their attractive cast with anything funny or exciting to do.


I guess I’ll start with what little good there is. Most of the cast is solid and seem to turn in relatively committed performances; at least considering the material they were given. I’ve been an Efron apologist for years and the “Neighbors” films showed that the man can in fact be funny, and here he is intermediately amusing. Dwayne Johnson is as charmable as ever with his big muscles and even bigger smile, although he continues to choose projects that are undeserving of his talents. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (say that five times fast) is probably the film’s bright spot, starring as the cop who keeps having to remind Johnson and company to stay in their lane and let the actual police do their jobs. He reminded me of Bashir Salahuddin from “Snatched” because while he only has a few scenes, he leaves the biggest impression and I can’t wait to see him in more.


The rest of the cast members are solid enough, but the females are mainly here to look attractive in two-piece bathing suits and tight dresses (of which they succeed) and the men are just supposed to look stupid and/or have good bodies (which, again, job well done on that front).


Most everything else here is a mess. I loved Seth Gordon’s “Horrible Bosses,” it’s one of my favorite comedies of all-time, but his other films are stinkers. I’m not sure if he is a one-hit wonder or what, but the man doesn’t seem to know how to direct a scene (or a film for that matter) to have any sort of rhythm or flow, and as such sequences drag on for far too long. A good comedy knows its purpose and each line of dialogue exists simply to build to the punchline. Films like 2016’s “Ghostbusters” are sluggish and unfunny because of all the riffing and randomly inserted insults in conversation; it ruins any flow. “Baywatch” goes for the easy laugh more often than not, and when you can see a joke coming it lessens its impact.


And ok. So this film’s budget. Apparently this cost $69 million to produce. Ignoring that I am 100% convinced the actual budget was $70 million but the producers found a way to save $1 million just so their budget would read “69,” this film shouldn’t cost that much. Hell, it shouldn’t cost half that much. I know Johnson is the highest paid actor in Hollywood so his quote is around $15 million but this film looks like it was made in 2004 for $20 million. The greenscreen is awful and distracting (how hard would it be to shoot on location in an actual boat?) and the fightscenes are way too up close and shaky. “Deadpool” cost $58 million and we all saw how (relatively) polished that turned out to be.


Look, “Baywatch” isn’t good. For some, it may have a guilty-pleasure way about it and sure, there were a few members of my audience who were dying laughing and clapped when the credits started rolling. But even for me, who has a record of going easy on comedies and chuckled enough throughout this to not hate it, there isn’t enough here to recommend you even check this one on cable. I guess you could say this is one bay that ain’t worth watching…


Critics Rating: 4/10

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

‘Neighbors 2’ a Rare Comedy Sequel That Works

Neighbors_2_Sorority_RisingIs that a unicorn? No? Just a comedy sequel that is as good as the original? Huh. Well, they’re both magical and rare. [cough] I apologize for that lame intro. Onto the review.


“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is the sequel to the 2014 hit “Neighbors,” which is Seth Rogen’s highest grossing film to date. When a sorority led by Chloë Grace Moretz moves in next door, Rogen and his wife (Rose Byrne) must enlist the help of former frat leader Teddy (Zac Efron) in order to make sure their house sells. Nicholas Stoller returns to direct.


I enjoyed the original “Neighbors” a fair amount on my first viewing and very much on my second. It just has a fun watchability about it, even if it isn’t Rogen’s best comedy. When they announced a sequel was in the works I wasn’t surprised but I was worried; there really wasn’t much more they could seemingly do with these characters, plus the trailers made the sequel out to look like an exact replica of the first film. But after seeing the movie, I can tell you: I was right, it is literally the same movie. But for all the best reasons.


Everything that worked about the original is once more a strength here. Zac Efron again shows that his true calling is comedy (he saved “Dirty Grandpa” from being a disaster) as he reprises the role of clueless but lovable frat-head Teddy. Teddy isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed but he means well, and Efron plays his character with the right blend of simple, vulnerable and charming. I have always been a supporter of him (not a fan, but…) so as long as he keeps accepting that he is the dumb hot jock, I think Efron will be ok.


The guy I am a fan of is Seth Rogen and he is his normal Seth Rogen self, that meaning he makes pot jokes, pokes fun at how fat he is and says the f-word a lot. He and Rose Byrne (as charming and bae-able as ever) have good chemistry and you do buy their relationship as stressed parents.


The film is for the most part paced well thanks to sharp editing by Zene Baker and colorful cinematography by Brandon Trost (Rogen’s normal duo). Director Nicholas Stoller knows how long scenes should last to not have them overstay their welcome, which keeps things moving along at a nice pace (the film is only 92 minutes long).


The film makes a few good points about the hypocrisy of men and frats vs women and sororities, like how it is actually against sorority rules to host a party (which is crazy and definitely not OK), and for this the film is to be commended. However it then begins to really shove “women can do anything men can do and probably better!” down the audiences throat (not in an aggressive way, but almost every scene tries to offer commentary) and it got tedious for me be the end.


Also there are small things that require you to suspend belief of reality. When it’s an exploding airbag I can do that but when someone breaks into another person’s home and then openly brags about it and sells the stolen item, and then the owner doesn’t go to the police simply because it would end the movie, that makes you take a step back.


“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” isn’t necessarily a great comedy but it is a great comedy sequel, in that much like “22 Jump Street” it is fully aware it has no reason at all for even existing and never tries to one-up its predecessor (unlike the sequels to: “The Hangover,” “Horrible Bosses” or “Zoolander”). Is it side-splitting funny? No, but I had a smile on my face for a majority of the runtime and so long as familiarity and genital jokes don’t bother you, you should do yourself a favor and check out Zac Efron’s abs—er, sorry, I mean, this movie.


Critics Rating: 7/10



‘We Are Your Friends’ Energetic but Sloppy Affair

We_Are_Your_FriendsWhat’s funny is that despite this film’s specific premise, it’s not even the best movie about aspiring Los Angeles DJs to come out this month (that title goes to “Straight Outta Compton”).

Directed and co-written by “Catfish” photographer Max Joseph (in his directorial debut), “We Are Your Friends” stars Zac Efron as an aspiring DJ in Los Angeles who is struggling to figure out his future. Emily Ratajkowski and Wes Bentley also star.

I guess I can give the movie props; it is better than it could/should have been. A rookie director/screenwriter paired with Zac Efron and a model in the leading roles, in a movie about DJs being released in late August. All signs pointed to this being one of those movies that were doomed from the start. But the film isn’t a disaster; it’s actually kinda mehhhh, ahhhh, fine(?)

I like Zac Efron, I think he is a capable-enough actor, and like Channing Tatum once he finds his niche he will have a nice career. Here he plays Cole, a 23-year-old wannabe DJ who lives in Los Angeles, has a job that pays him a $15,000 bonus, and constantly has attractive girls hitting on him at clubs, but he still manages to find things to complain about in his life. He meets a famous DJ (oxymoron?), played by Wes Bentley, who takes Cole under his wing.

Efron and Bentley have solid chemistry in their Obi-Wan/Luke Skywalker relationship, even if almost every scene plays out the same way: Bentley tells Efron that he needs to find a style, Efron does something different and Bentley likes it, but the film needs to keep going so he tells Efron to change more.

The film has a nice energy about it and the Los Angeles skyline adds some visual candy, but unfortunately the energy is bogged down by incoherent direction and a script that is just all over the place. I don’t think you know how hard it was just for me just to come up with that plot summary in the opening paragraph, because aside from the overarching story of Efron wanting to be a DJ, there are so many other side plots you just don’t care about.

Efron has this group of three friends who are pretty much the Dollar General version of the “Entourage” crew and you just hate all of them. They get into fights and hold Efron back, so when suddenly a life-changing event happens to them simply for the sake of attempting to add dramatic heft to the plot, you don’t care. Then the movie just kind of breezes over the event by the next scene and you didn’t care in the first place so you just shrug it off.

The direction needs to be addressed, too, because it feels like a different person was in charge of the first and second half of the film. The first half has characters break the third wall for reasons never explained, some weird cutaways to stock footage of maps and lions, and then borderline creepy x-rays of dancing people’s beating hearts. It all concludes with a scene where Efron takes drugs and imagining people becoming moving paintings.

The second half has none of this and plays out like a poor man’s coming-of-age story that happens to unfortunately (for him, mostly) involve Jon Bernthal (he deserves so much better).

The bottom line about “We Are Your Friends” is this: as much as I didn’t care about 90% of what was happening, and I hated most every character not played by Efron or Bentley, I still was relatively enjoying myself throughout. The film does tend to take itself too seriously (a satire on the world of DJs may have worked better) and the title is annoying and irrelevant to the plot, but if movies about attractive DJs struggling to get rich is your thing, then it has enough style and energy to be worth a mild recommendation.

Critics Rating: 5/10friends

‘Neighbors’ a Fun Watch

neighborsImagine the Farrelly Brothers directed “Animal House”. The outcome would be something very similar to “Neighbors”. Directed by “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” director Nicholas Stoller, the film stars Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as new parents whose life is turned upside down when a fraternity, led by Zac Efron and Dave Franco, moves in next door.

Seth Rogen was placed on Hollywood’s comedy radar when he exploded onto the scene in 2007 with “Knocked Up” and “Superbad”. Since then, he has made films that have been revered as some of the funniest films of the past decade, like “Pineapple Express” and “This Is the End”. It can be argued that he has never made a bad film, and certainly never something as lazy as most Adam Sandler movies. And the fact that “Neighbors” is not one of Rogen’s funniest films, but is still a solid film, says a lot.

In the very first scene of “Neighbors”, you know exactly what kind of movie you’re in store for. The film opens up with Rogen and Byrne awkwardly trying to get intimate in front of their newborn baby (yeah, the movie is set in a world where Seth Rogen can get a girl like Rose Byrne). The film has its share of gross out gags, and fair share of genitalia jokes, but it knows exactly where to end the joke and never overdoes it, like so many wannabe raunchy movies try to do.

The best part of “Neighbors”, a film featuring established comedy stars like Rogen, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Hannibal Buress, is Zac Efron. For some reason, some people don’t like Efron. They say he’s just a pretty boy or a Disney Kid, or are just plain jealous (I mean, just look at the guy). But Efron may have just found his new niche, because he is perfectly cast as Teddy, the leader of the Delta Psi fraternity. Seamlessly blending cool nice guy with jerk, Efron steals every scene he is in, and possibly part of what makes his role so great is seeing the star of “High School Musical” dropping f-bombs and smoking joints.

What holds “Neighbors” back from the levels of Rogen’s other films is the amount of jokes in the film. While there are a lot of moments with clever gags or funny one-liners, there are sometimes five to ten minute segments where you won’t laugh; either a joke falls flat or there just doesn’t even seem to be one attempted. “Ted” had a similar issue; the film is never boring, it just may not be as funny as it thinks or hopes it is.

Editors don’t get enough credit from the normal filmgoer, so I’ll give Zene Baker, the editor of “Neighbors”, major props. The film is very well paced; its 96 minutes and but never feels rushed, and there are a few fun transition shots.

“Neighbors” isn’t the funniest film Seth Rogen has ever made, but it is still very entertaining. Zac Efron may have broken out of his shell and the rest of the supporting cast each lend something special. The film has its share of heart, too. I guess you could say the film is neat, tight and easy to watch; just like Zac Efron’s torso.

Critics Rating: 7/10