By Michael Lynderey
May 5, 2017
2. Baywatch (May 26th)
Making a decent stab for runner-up is Baywatch, a big-screen, high-budget, and very offensively ultra-muscular, adaptation of an apparently legendary television series – a show that I must report never having seen in any capacity, even having been blessed with a 1990s childhood (so it’s about lifeguards who rescue insolent swimmers and solve crimes? An excellent example of multi-tasking).
The noble beachcombers this time are led by Zac Efron, acutely cast given his mild but tangible history of beefcake self-parody, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who has spent years moving from action to comedy to self-satire to farce, and whose screen presence may at this rate soon evoke the only genre left, horror. While I shudder at his public image, I would never question the man’s box office credentials: Journey 2, $103 million, San Andreas, $155 million, Central Intelligence, $127 million, Moana, gazillion dollars, and onwards through the hall of endless victory (if anyone has proven that too much winning can be boring…). As for Zac Efron, in this film he looks so much bigger than before, that a passerby glancing at a Baywatch poster on a semi-lit street should be forgiven for being unable to pick out which is The Rock and which is Mr. Efron.
Elsewhere, Kelly Rohrbach takes over the Pamela Anderson role of statuesque queen of the beach, while Alexandra Daddario has the other big female lead (and since she played The Rock's daughter in San Andreas, I hope their characters stay as platonic as possible). Priyanka Chopra makes her big American film debut, and cameos will be had by all relevant parties (if David Hasselhoff agreed to appear in Piranha 3DD, you kind of assume he okayed this one, too).
Since a humourless, straight-forward, Baywatch movie is just about impossible (and immoral) to make, this version has gone the route of comedy, a la Charlie's Angels (which I ‘’think’’ was self-aware) and 21 Jump Street. And so, I assume, straggling beach patrons will be saved from their life-threatening errors, action-comedy quips will be traded, the conspiracy to derail the beachtime idyll will be identified and prevented, television clichés will be recreated in snickering detail, shark attacks will be averted, and the size of The Rock and Efron's pectoral muscles, which would make the average steroid addict green with envy, will be mocked (and other than the one I just made, jokes about how big someone's muscles are, are never, ever, funny; if we must breach the subject of body mass at all, let us just have fat jokes again, instead, please).
By the way, last summer had so many underperforming films, especially sequels, that it would not surprise me in the least to see the sand-bound Baywatch outwit the same Memorial Day weekend's other big movie, the Caribbean-dwelling Pirates.
Honestly, which would you rather see?
(If only because Baywatch is likely to be shorter.).
Opening weekend: $55 million (4-day) / Total gross: $145 million
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (May 26th)
Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, and Spider-Man 3 were three of the biggest films of summer 2007. Ten years later, humanity eagerly awaits the releases of Pirates 5, Transformers 5 (June), and Spider-Man… 6, isn’t it, technically? (July). Summer 2007 may soon call summer 2017 and politely ask for its films back (at least they kept Shrek).
The first Pirates of the Caribbean arrived a year after its little-seen DisneyWorld cousin The Country Bears (2002), and pre-release was similarly mocked as a ridiculous adaptation of a children’s theme park ride. Alas, the mockers were silenced and banished, because Pirates had been made into a well-reviewed old school fantasy adventure, buoyed by Johnny Depp’s Oscar-nominated performance, and blew away that July weekend’s other big period piece, the 1899-set The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (in an alternate universe, we’re now getting League 5: the Roaring Twenties instead). Over in our reality, though, Pirates inspired a franchise that soon became known for combining action, comedy, and length (part 3 clocked in at 2 hours and 48 minutes), and collected every last trope one could hope or dread to find in a Pirate picture (say, is that ghost monkey coming back?). Pirates 2 (Dead Man’s Chest) broke the opening weekend record in 2006 with a still-respectable $135 million, and the next two films dropped on the box office rungs as time went by, to a $309 mil total gross in 2007 and $241 mil in 2011.
That brings us to Dead Men Tell No Tales, but who in these films is really dead? While my favorite pirate, Bill Nighy’s humanoid-shaped seafood Davy Jones, is apparently gone for good, Pirates 6 returns Johnny Depp’s Captain Sparrow and enjoins him again with Geoffrey Rush’s salty-looking Captain Barbossa (who has been brought back from the beyond, twice, and apparently liked not being dead so much that he stuck around). They are pitted against Javier Bardem’s Captain Salazar, who is the latest of the dozens of high-powered marine denizens who prowl the waves of the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and all other oceans looking for revenge against Captain Jack Sparrow (the man sure has ticked off a lot of people, even for reasons other than his films’ excessive and offensive length).