Pardon my presumption, but if you’re reading this piece about Baywatch the Movie: Forbidden Paradise, a made-for-video feature-length expansion of the syndicated lifeguard-swimsuit show, you’re at least moderately intrigued by Pamela Anderson — she of the bravely acknowledged breast implants, the impossibly concave tummy, the irrelevant acting disability, and the unkempt husband (Heather Locklear reject Tommy Lee). (In France — where Baywatch is called Alerte à Malibu — the magazine Max recently said that she is to love what Schwarzenegger is to war: ”une allégorie vivante,” or ”a living allegory.” In fact, I think they use Pam as a question on the French SATs.)
Anderson plays, as you know, C.J. Parker, a brave, intelligent, sensitive lifeguard with the body of Pamela Anderson. As Baywatch’s stolid star and visionary executive producer, David Hasselhoff may be the show’s auteur, but he knows what side his belly-board is buttered on. Accordingly, Baywatch The Movie begins with an extended montage de Pam: C.J. stretching the heroic seams of her bathing suit to hoist the American flag on her lifeguard station; C.J. slathering on sunscreen — filmed, of course, in slow motion; C.J. rescuing lucky gasping idiots who’ve decided to take a dip less than an hour after eating.
But then Hasselhoff’s Mitch tells his lifeguard crew that they’ve been accepted for a Hawaiian ”exchange of skills program,” which means they all get to go to Oahu for a week, and do a little work and lots of playing around. (In case you didn’t know, C.J. and David Charvet’s Matt are a smoochy romantic item, as are Yasmine Bleeth’s Caroline and Jaason Simmons’ Logan; honestly, this is the most unprofessional lifeguard crew I’ve ever seen!)
So everyone, including the television show’s one unaccountably serious, dedicated lifeguard, Stephanie (Alexandra Paul), flies off to Hawaii and participates in the obligatory natives-greet-the-tourists scene, which includes a happily leering close-up of the lei dangling from C.J.’s neck. What follows is a typical Baywatch episode stretched to 90 minutes — near drownings, boating mishaps, thwarted kidnappings, and music-video-style love scenes. And, oh yeah, Matt is stung by a deadly scorpion fish.
But if you’re thinking of renting this tape, beware, because Pamela Anderson leaves a scant 30 minutes into it, never to return. That’s right; the writers trump up an excuse for C.J. to make a sudden return trip to California. What’s the deal? Is Anderson now so big a star that she can demand a minimum of screen time, in order to pursue her movie career?
You can tell that Hasselhoff knew he’d be in trouble without Anderson, because Baywatch The Movie hastily introduces a scaled-down version of C.J., a lissome model named Holly (Heidi Mark) — a sort of Pam Lite. She squirms obligingly in a yellow bikini, but to no avail; lacking Anderson, Baywatch The Movie is crassness without conviction.
While Hasselhoff deserves a wet-towel snap for foisting this two-thirds Pam-less product on an unsuspecting public, special dispensation should be given to Yasmine Bleeth. She’s the only Baywatch wave bunny who can wear a metallic iridescent two-piece and still manage to radiate a friendly, knowing sarcasm about her cushy predicament. With Anderson apparently getting too big for her thong, Bleeth may prove to be — well, one hates to say the thinking person’s C.J., given that thought is inimical to Baywatch’s appeal. Let’s just call Bleeth Baywatch’s first postmodern lifeguard, une avant-allégorie. D+