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Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron star in a scene from the movie "Baywatch." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.(CNS photo/Paramount)

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- Eye candy and escapism were the draw of the television series from which director Seth Gordon's action comedy "Baywatch" (Paramount) has been adapted.

Whatever success the show -- which began on NBC but had a longer life in syndication -- may have had back in the 1990s, it takes more than an ensemble of good-looking people running around in bathing suits to sustain a feature film.

And, since neither Gordon nor screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift can seem to decide whether they're out to make a pop-culture spoof or a crime-solving adventure, their film turns out to be a predictably shallow mess.

Matters are not helped by the absurdly earnest tone in which the conflict at the center of the plot is put forward to the audience. This clash pits newcomer Matt Brody (Zac Efron) against Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson), the longtime leader of the lifeguarding team of the title.

A disgraced Olympic swimmer whose selfish ways and fondness for partying cost his team a medal, Matt bucks against Mitch's ethos of cooperation and mutual concern. As the dialogue heavy-handedly seeks to drive home, however, lives could be endangered if Matt doesn't learn to collaborate with his new colleagues.

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