We know that Justin Timberlake can nail every "Saturday Night Live" scene or digital short he's in and that he can launch a million (a billion?) FaceBook jokes, but can he lead a "Baywatch" movie? Moreover, does the world really need a "Baywatch" movie?
This project has been in slow-mo development for years, which is never a great sign. DreamWorks bought the rights to the series in 2004, and "Rescue Me" writer Peter Tolan reportedly turned in a script for the movie to Paramount in 2011. Whether or not Paramount is still working with this script or if other writers have been brought in to polish it isn't clear; there are always multiple cooks in these kitchens.
Tolan gave up some details on his script on the Matthew Aaron Show podcast last year. He said, "It's not based on the show in any way, though there are a couple of winks at the show ... I don't know anything about the show. I didn't watch it in preparation for writing this."
On the other hand, he did write parts for Pam Anderson, who got her big break on the show as a leggy lifeguard, and David Hasselhoff, if either are interested. (Somehow, it's a safe bet that they'll show up.) Timberlake's role will be that of "a disgraced former Olympic swimmer who tries out for the Baywatch crew," which sounds like it could take itself entirely too seriously.
"Baywatch" is a dated property, so it seems like there are two ways to sell it: reworked as a romcom with Timberlake so his fans can swoon or as something knowingly campy with plenty of winks at its weird legacy. The team behind the "Baywatch" movie would be better off taking cues from "MacGruber" than playing it straight, especially since Timberlake is, for the most part, better at comedy than drama. (With "The Social Network," Timberlake had the best in the biz filming him and feeding him lines; "Baywatch" won't offer any such Fincher/Sorkin luxuries.)
Although the '80s action throwback "MacGruber" disappointed at the box office, the movie has found new life on DVD. Unfortunately, "MacGruber" was pre-judged by its "Saturday Night Live" pedigree when it opened, no matter how good the word of mouth was; now fans are demanding a sequel.
The sci-fi bomb "In Time" showed that a studio can't count on a mega star like Justin Timberlake to make box office numbers happen like magic. "In Time" also had confusing marketing and was targeting a different audience than Timberlake's fans, so if they were trying to capitalize on that, they failed.
Unless "Baywatch" The Movie turns into some romcom on the beach with Timberlake, it won't lure in fans of his music and six pack abs. And without some sense of its own silliness, "Baywatch" will bomb no matter whose name is attached.