Synopsis – A spoiled, wealthy yacht owner is thrown overboard and becomes the target of revenge from his mistreated employee.
My Take – With a recent slew of remakes hitting the screens recently, it’s quite clear how Hollywood studios loves to bet on our nostalgia to get us into a nearby theater, no matter if we as an audience ever even asked for it. For example, who really thinks a remake of the Al Pacino classic Scarface is a good idea? While, I don’t mind a distinctive take on an original source material, this remake of a 1987 comedy just seemed pointless right from its inception.
The original film, starring real life couple, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, under the direction of Garry Marshall, was a mostly failed screwball comedy that worked mainly due to the exclusive chemistry between the leads, and without their charm, the film would have been a horrid affair. While it’s still hard to see why this farcical storyline found appeal to a second creative team, director Rob Greenberg, writers Leslie Dixon and Bob Fisher along with producer and star Eugenio Derbez, even as they felt compelled to gender-flip the roles, somehow manage to entertain while giving the film a unique identity by mixing accomplished actors of different nationalities. It’s not a perfect film by any means, in the sense, it’s very predictable and not terribly realistic or original, but as far as studio rom coms go, it’s a pleasant surprise, and better than it really has any right to be, by being a comedy that shows some heart while pulling a contemporary twist on the original.
The story follows Kate (Anna Faris), a working-class single mother of three girls, who while working two jobs, as a pizza delivery driver and a carpet cleaner, is struggling to pay her bills, raise her kids and finish studying for her nursing exam. With her mother (Swoosie Kurtz) also backing out on her commitment in helping to take care of her girls, all in order to pursue her dream of acting in a musical theater, Kate’s noble prospects appear completely doomed. However, things go from bad to worse when Kate has a run in with Leonardo (Eugenio Derbez), a rich, totally self-absorbed Mexican playboy and an heir apparent to lead the company of his father (Fernando Lujan).
While his sisters, Magdalena (Cecilia Suarez) and Sofia (Mariana Trevino), hold vigil at their dying father’s bedside, Leonardo is busy drinking and cavorting with supermodels on his yacht called the Birthday Present. As Kate is hired to clean the carpets of the Birthday Present, the two end up ending in a tussle, as a result of which Leonardo winds up throwing Kate and her equipment into the harbor without paying her, leading to Kate losing her job, which is followed by an eviction notice. Opportunity comes when Leonardo falls off his boat, then washes up on the Oregon coast with no memory of his identity. As his sister Magdalena, the only person who knows what happened, and has been eying to run the family company herself, pretends to not recognize him, in a sense of poetic justice, Kate takes the advice of her pizza company boss, Theresa (Eva Longoria), and shows up at the hospital, claiming to be Leonardo’s wife.
It takes some convincing, but Kate gets Leo (as she calls him) to come home with her, get a construction job, working for Theresa’s husband Bobby (Mel Rodriguez) and cook, clean and help take care of the girls so she can devote more time to studying. Leo eventually takes to this life (and even starts to thrive in it), while Kate and her daughters take to him. But what will happen after Kate finally takes her test and Leo’s memory kicks in? It’s still a really mean premise, but maybe it’s a little more benevolent this time around; she wants to be a nurse, after all. The key to enjoying this film is accepting that someone has it within himself to be both the most obnoxious person ever and the most thoughtful person ever.
By mixing the American melting pot of Mexican-Americans, the film takes on another level, and creates its laughs through that level. It doesn’t shirk the original story either, and interprets it through the comic craftsmanship of Eugenio Derbez, generating a whole new take on the premise, mainly as now viewed through a feminist led-era lens, it’s an awfully mean-spirited premise to hang a breezy rom-com on. Back in 1987, the approach of the film and leads were charming enough to make you forget it was still a man taking advantage of a mentally impaired woman, no matter how despicable they made her in the beginning, and not to put too fine a point on it, the film is fluff and at moments quite amusing, but one human being deceiving, kidnapping and enslaving another, whatever the character’s gender, motivation or era, just feels wrong, and it takes more to sell this high concept now.
But thankfully, director Rob Greenberg’s film is more smartly written than most will likely give it credit for. Though amnesiac plots like this naturally come hand in hand with slight moral and ethical dilemmas, the strange, sexist undertones of the original film have gone. The idea that housework is women’s work is no more, and any physical intimacy has been reserved for the last act. Sure, nothing that ensues is likely to surprise, but that’s not a complaint, as this is the kind of rom com that have become fairly rare now, in that its creators know exactly what kind of earnest, absurd stories we want, and are more than happy to give them to us without have to give everything an edgy twist.
It’s like a telenovela in that respect, which is a comparison that is explicitly invited, as the staff at the pizzeria where Kate works constantly watch telenovelas in the kitchen. The film’s funniest moments come as Leonardo adjusts to his new lifestyle, manipulated by Kate. For example, Leonardo, who has never worked a day in his life, being forced to carry around concrete on a construction job. He is suddenly the owner of several Seattle Seahawks T-shirts, he wonders about the origin of the green and blue birds and has a hard time adapting to a life of labor. Kate convinces him he has a drinking problem, so he starts attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and espousing 12-step philosophies.
Yes, it is not a very imaginative physical comedy, but about halfway through, the film pivots into an oddly thought-provoking story about transformation. Being poor sucks, but it does not suck as much when you take pride in your work and put effort and creativity into looking after your family, which Leonardo does, turning himself into a man Kate could actually fall in love with and that her girls can love as a new father. Madcap though it may be, the film’s treatment of Mexicans, by turning Hollywood’s stereotypical image on its head is also inspired. Instead of the cook, gardener, gang member or drug dealer, here we have a good-for-nothing scion of an ultra-wealthy family (that heads a construction materials company), which includes a dying patriarch who unaccountably regains his strength; a conniving, very bad sister who has her sights set on owning the business; and the much-beleaguered younger sibling who solves the mystery of her brother’s whereabouts and uncovers her sister’s nefarious machinations.
The internecine feuds don’t resolve with full satisfaction, but they make for a funny and self-aware melodramatic presence. As well as the working-class Mexicans of all stripes Leo encounters on the job. As some of the dialogue are in Spanish (with subtitles), as an integral part of the comedy, ethnic diversity is gently embraced. For those of you that are fans of the original, you’ll be happy to know that there are a couple of callbacks to that film as well as a few scenes that are nearly identical. Sure, there are certainly sticking points throughout the film, there’s nothing that feels unforgivable. However, what is not forgivable is its extended run time. At 112 minutes, the film feels a bit too long and overstuffed, and when the final act kicks in, events resolve so quickly that a lot of the hemming and hawing that care before feels unnecessary.
While, we already knew what was going to happen, it just felt like things were better in the Sullivan home. While the gender flip seems reasonable, a large part in which the original worked was because both the main characters were fairly unlikable. While Russell’s character grows a conscience over the course of the film, Kate is likable from the start and is running an idyllic home life in comparison. It’s a core dynamic shift that doesn’t help the story, and it’s hard to buy into Kate’s willingness to kidnap another person, no matter how terrible he’s been to her. While the film does what it promised from its trailers, it’s hard to ignore the solid work from the cast.
Clearly being a vehicle designed to make Eugenio Derbez a star with non-Hispanic viewers, he is perfectly cast as a charming lout with a sensitive soul. Without a doubt, he is the funniest thing in the film. Anna Faris is as always earnest and likable. Although her character is more grounded in reality, she earns her laughs with her vulnerability. While Hannah Nordberg, Alyvia Alyn Lind and Payton Lepinski are great as the daughters, Mel Rodriguez and Eva Longoria are standouts. In smaller roles, Swoosie Kurtz, John Hannah, Josh Segarra, Jesus Ochoa, Omar Chaparro, Javier Lacroix, and Adrian Uribe are likable. On the whole, ‘Overboard’ is a standard rom com, which despite an outrageous premise, manages to be pleasantly funny.
Directed – Rob Greenberg
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 112 minutes