Cary, NC – Baywatch is a comedic adaptation of the wildly popular 90s TV show starring David Hasseloff and Pamela Anderson. While stars Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron do their best with what they have, the movie struggles to find a groove and never quite produces the laughs it’s going for.
Not Enough Laughs
The film seems to be taking a queue from the 21 Jump Street movies starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. Those movies were unexpectedly clever and filled with sincere performances from the two leads while also being insanely funny.
While Baywatch certainly tries its best, it can’t quite decide whether its in on its own joke or going all in and committing to the insanity. It’s a fine line, and Baywatch never really finds it.
Johnson and Efron Can’t Quite Save It
It’s a shame too because Dwayne Johnson (Fast and Furious series, Wrestlemania XV, X-Seven), one of the most charismatic stars on the planet, seems to be having a blast. He has always excelled at comedy, but like the film itself, his performance never quite finds its footing. One moment winking at the audience and the next going for broke. Granted, it seems that more of a script or direction issue than Johnson himself.
Efron (Neighbors, High School Musical) fares a bit better, at least in terms of consistency. Efron has proven himself to be quite adapt in the R-rated comedy filled the past few years, and I for one can say that I’m a genuine fan now. Here he plays a disgraced gold medal winning Olympian hoping to save some face by joining the elite Baywatch squad. Surprisingly enough, Efron’s character has the most complete arc in the movie and Efron does a great job and gets quite a few laughs. I honestly think he is much more talented than he gets credit for, as I really enjoyed his work here.
But overall, Baywatch is a disappointment. It’s certainly not terrible, and there are definite laughs to be had, but considering the talents and charm of the cast involved, it should have been a lot funnier. Not worth the trip.
The final movie by Polish master director Andrzej Wajda, Afterimage tells the true story of an artist oppressed for his belief in creating his own works. And with a skilled director at the helm, it never feels slow or overly dramatic but instead puts you in the head of a unique figure from history.
Afterimage is playing this weekend at the Cary Theater.
One Last Shot
If you are not familiar with Wajda’s work, from Man of Iron to The Promised Land, he is an extraordinarily talented director whose work reflects the hardship of Polish people. After being occupied by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Wajda touches on questions of existence and what it means to be an artist and a human being.
So in Afterimage, Wajda has an appropriate protagonist in the form of painter Władysław Strzemiński, played by Bogusław Linda (Man of Iron, Katyń). Stremiński is an avant-garde artist, his outlook formed by the horrors of World War I, who is forced to conform to a new Stalinist rule.
And this is the central conflict of the movie. There is no big action Stremiński has to take to prove himself; he just learns how to cope with this new government and fights to keep his art up and intact, all threaded with Wajda’s expertise.
There are plenty of other supporting roles that add to Afterimage but our focus is primarily on Linda playing the mistreated painter. While Wajda frames him as a martyr for the cause of art, he is not a simple good guy. Stremiński is rude and stubborn, partially due to his experience fighting in World War I and partially just because of who he is as a person. And this goes to extremes at points, such as Stremiński sending his daughter to a difficult boarding school and not paying it much mind.
But this is what raises Afterimage to a higher level. Many historical films may try to brighten up figures from history or only tease out negative pieces of their personality. But Afterimage goes all in, giving the good and the bad. And more importantly, it shows how the parts of Stremiński’s personality that would put off most people was a key part of his resistance to the Stalinist rule.
For Wajda’s last movie – he died in 2016 – it is a fitting final note to a career shaped by the history of the Polish people.
For lovers of history, dramatic movies or just art in general, Afterimage is a quality film. And speaking of art, you can see lots of gorgeous, bright works throughout the movie that light up the screen.
Afterimage is playing at the Cary Theater on Thursday, June 1 at 9:15 PM; Friday, June 2 at 7 PM; and Thursday, June 8 at 2 and 7 PM.
Also playing this weekend is The Comic Adventures of Max and Léon at Thursday, June 1 at 2 and 7 PM; Friday, June 2 at 9:15 PM; Saturday, June 3 at 2 PM; and Thursday, June 8 at 9:15 PM.