Over-the-top ‘Overboard’ quickly sinks into problematic territory
The main takeaway from the remake of the 1987 rom-com “Overboard” is simply: Why? The whole endeavor is an exercise in trying to do too many things — rehash a nostalgic property, propel Mexican film star Eugenio Derbez to mainstream stardom, revive Anna Faris’ career — but it never actually manages to be a good movie.
The trend in Hollywood seems to be to take all of the most Problematic with a capital P comedies from the ’80s, and then gender-swap them so the power dynamic flips. Ghostbusters who are ladies? Sure. Easy enough swap. But trying to gender-swap a story that is so intertwined with themes of domesticity, class, labor, predation, manipulation and oh, yeah, kidnapping is a far more complicated task. One which the writers and directors of “Overboard,” Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg, haven’t executed with much thought or skill.
The one thing they do get right in the remake is liken the outlandish amnesia tale to the melodramatic telenovelas that are constantly watched in the kitchen of pizza shop where Kate (Faris), a single mom of three girls, delivers pizzas. Her second job is cleaning carpets, which is how she encounters the vain, wealthy party boy Leonardo (Derbez) — the son of the third richest man in the world — yachting off the coast of Oregon. The two get into a spat, Kate is tossed in the sea with her carpet steamer, and she’s got enough motivation to enact some revenge when Leonardo washes ashore with no memory of who he is.
The overextended single mother decides to head to the psych ward and pick up some household help, telling the doctors Leonardo is her husband. She puts him to work cooking, cleaning and working construction while she studies for her nursing exam. We all know the story from the original film: With some hard but fulfilling work and exposure to parenting, rich brats can be reformed into good, middle-class citizens.
The idea to flip the gender dynamic and dull some of the creepy vibes of the original — wherein our hunky hero kidnaps a woman with a head injury and presses her into wifely duties — just doesn’t quite work when the script maintains a lot of seriously retrograde gender-based humor. Why maintain the sexism during the overhaul? Everything that actually works in the “Overboard” reboot has less to do with gender and more to do with race, as a majority of the characters are Latino, of different classes and backgrounds, and the discussion of their experiences chasing the American dream, or not, is rich with potential for real cultural commentary.
The main problem is the woeful miscasting of the two leads. Derbez is charming, and he nails the rather ditzy spoiled rich kid routine, but, unfortunately, he’s too old for the role. He and Faris have no chemistry together — they seem more like friendly neighbors than lovers, and the broad declarations of love at the end are incredibly forced and false.
Derbez could have possibly worked across from a stronger female lead, and Faris should have been in the Goldie Hawn role (with perhaps, her ex-husband, doofy bad boy Chris Pratt, in the Russell role). The original “Overboard” is, in retrospect, strained, but part of the fun is watching Hawn and Russell, now longtime partners, fall in love during the film. There’s just no such love — or really anything else worth watching — to witness in the remake.
Cast: Eugenio Derbez, Anna Faris, Eva Longoria, John Hannah, Swoosie Kurtz, Mel Rodriguez.
Directed by Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg.
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes.
Rated PG-13 for suggestive material, partial nudity and some language.