Garry Marshall’s 1987 “Overboard,” with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, was an amiably mediocre amnesia-based comedy that one might have thought, if one gave it any thought at all, would be resurrected as a bad Broadway musical. Instead some bright folks, headed by writer-director Rob Greenberg and his co-writer Bob Fisher, decided that a remake of the thirty-year old movie was a better idea, with a gender reversal as the big twist. It wasn’t.
Co-produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Pantelion Films, this version is divided almost equally between English and Spanish segments, with the latter subtitled. Whether this attempt to cross over the usual divisions in audience by language will succeed is an open question, but the resultant hybrid is an interesting experiment along those lines, though the colorless writing and direction make it a failed one.
“Overboard” will also test whether Eugenio Derbez, a major star in Mexico, can achieve similar status north of the border. The opinion from this quarter is probably not, because his comic method leans toward an exaggerated, frenetic style that seems at odds with the more laid-back, sardonic approach that usually spells major success in Hollywood farce.
But his wild-eyed, slapstick approach fits the conception of the plot fashioned by Fisher and Greenberg. Derbez plays Leonardo Montenegro, the rich, arrogant son of the head of a huge building-supply company (Fernando Luján). Leo is a profligate playboy, who is sailing his palatial yacht off the Oregon coast. Hard-working single mom Kate (Anna Faris) is brought aboard to clean the carpets, and when she refuses to get him a snack he refuses to pay her and tosses her overboard. The poor thing loses her job and is stuck with a bill for the equipment she lost—all this while trying to put food on the table for her three daughters (Hannah Nordberg, Alyvia Alyn Lind and Payton Lepinski) and study for her nursing exam.
When Leo responds to a summons from his supposedly dying father to return home and claim the company leadership over his ambitious sister Magdalena (Cecilia Suarez), he falls overboard, winding up in Kate’s small coastal hometown of Elk Cove with amnesia. His sister actually tracks Leo down in the hospital, but, anxious to get control of the company for herself, pretends not to recognize him. Kate, on the other hand, prodded by her best friend Theresa (Eva Longoria), claims him as her husband in order to get back at him: she’ll get a construction job for him with Theresa’s husband Bobby (Mel Rodriguez) to help with household costs, and make him do the cooking and cleaning so she can study for her upcoming test.
Where the plot goes from there follows sitcom formula to the letter. Leo becomes more and more a homebody, devoted to Kate and her kids and trying to do his job as best as he can, despite the fact that he’s never done an honest day’s work in his life. Kate, meanwhile, begins to regret how she’s treating Leo, and mulls over confessing her scheme, but by that time the girls have grown so fond of him that they rebel against the idea. Eventually, of course, the truth comes out, and the dilemma for Leo and Kate is where to go from there. Their decision is not, of, course, especially surprising, though Greenberg and Fisher drag out the purported suspense as long as they can, constructing an elaborate finale at sea and then topping it off with a series of cute clips from various characters during the credits.
The new “Overboard” has the occasionally bright line and a few amusing cinematic allusions (one to the earlier picture and another to “Jaws” when Magda tries to claim that he died of a shark attack (check out the name tag of Elk Cove’s sheriff), but its major strength comes from the supporting players. Derbez is irksomely frantic and Faris simply pallid (she’s was apparently chosen for the part simply because, here at least, she bears an uncanny resemblance to Hawn), but Longoria and Rodriguez are both engaging, and some members of Bobby’s crew—Josh Segarra, Jesús Ochoa—are cheekily enjoyable, even if the dialogue they’re given is pretty flat. John Hannah gets some decent moments as the chief officer on Leo’s yacht, but Swoosie Kurtz is wasted in a cameo as Kate’s mother, who joins a dinner theatre troupe rather than stay in Elk Cove to take care of his grandkids. A “Mikado” scene she’s in toward the close is an embarrassment.
“Overboard” is technically okay—as shot by Michael Barrett it looks like most middle-grade Hollywood rom-coms. But this mediocre feature-length sitcom is just another unnecessary remake of a movie that wasn’t particularly good in the first place.