Garry Marshall’s 1987 comedy “Overboard” might not have gotten the best reviews when it came out, but it was a viewing staple in my childhood home.
Whether it was because of cable repeats, my parents’ taste, the irresistible charms of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, the (endearingly) absurd premise, or some combination of all of it, it’s one that we held in high regard and would often quote. “It’s a hell of a day at sea, sir” was a favorite as was “My life is like death, my children are the spawn of hell and you’re the devil.”
It was a daunting prospect when a remake was announced, but I was cautiously optimistic. Anna Faris is a gifted comedian, and the gender-flipping seemed as viable an excuse as any to dust off the story of an amnesia-stricken billionaire who gets a karmic taste of working class life and, you know, learns some stuff along the way. Plus, they’d decided to diversify, casting Eugenio Derbez, a star in Latin America, as the wealthy jerk.
Sadly, and perhaps inevitably, the 2018 ”Overboard ” pales in comparison. Not only do its two stars have zero chemistry with each other, but the story goes out of its way to over-explain and over-justify the preposterous premise, adding needless complications (like a whole side-plot about his family’s business) and motivations to make everyone more likable and empathetic. The result is very much the opposite: A sterilized sitcom full of forgettable characters that makes poverty look like a Target ad and romance as fun as a drugstore greeting card.
Directed and co-written by Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg, this “Overboard” has Kate (Anna Faris) as an over-worked mother of three, juggling multiple jobs cleaning carpets and delivering pizzas while trying to study to become a nurse. She’s harried, I guess, because the movie tells us she is. But she and her three blonde daughters are all fairly put-together and well-groomed. Their house is a little messy and needs some repairs, but overall they seem to be doing OK, especially when compared with their scraggly ’87 counterparts.
Leonardo (Eugenio Derbez) is a spoiled man-boy — an unmarried Playboy who hangs around his yacht with models and zero cares. He’s demanding of his staff, but not remotely as cold and haughty as Hawn was. Even his spat with Kate — the instigating incident that justifies her essentially taking him hostage — is questionably tame. It has something to do with him asking her to get him some mango, but like most things in this movie, is at best unmemorable.
The remake even takes Kate’s agency away from her in hatching the plot to take advantage of the amnesiac jerk who threw her off his yacht without payment and gives that to her friend, Theresa (Eva Longoria). Kate just sort of unwittingly goes along with it, not really even to get revenge, but just as a stop-gap to get someone else who can bring in a paycheck and ease the workload while she studies for her exam.
The ’87 “Overboard” is no great pillar of cinema, but even it treated Hawn’s character with a shred of dignity in her confused state. This just uses Derbez as a slapstick prop. It’s a fine choice, but it’s confusing then when the movie asks us to suddenly care about Leonardo and Kate. He’s hardly a character at all, and definitely not someone whose arc is worth getting invested in.
Also, the initial premise, so self-consciously silly in 1987, seems even more implausible in the internet age. Wouldn’t it be national news that the playboy son of one of the wealthiest men in the world and heir to his company has gone missing and/or died in a shark attack, which his vengeful sister tries to claim in order to get control of her ailing father’s company?
There are moments that may elicit the occasional chuckle, like when Leonardo takes a construction job. But overall, it just seems like a waste of everyone’s time. Why cast John Hannah or Swoosie Kurtz if you’re going to give them 5 minutes on screen?
With so many reboots and remakes and sequels out there, it’s hardly productive to question why something got made anymore. Suffice it to say, you’d be safer to leave this one floating without a life jacket and just renting the ’87 one again.
★1/2 (out of ★★★★)
When • Opens Friday, May 4.
Where • Area theaters.
Rating • PG-13 for “suggestive material, partial nudity and some language.”
Running time • 110 minutes.