Any remake of the 1987 Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell “romantic” “comedy” Overboard would have to reverse the genders. A single father of three rowdy boys tricking a rich, mean amnesiac woman into believing she’s his wife — that is to say, cook, nanny, and housekeeper — feels cruel and misogynistic now. We do NOT gaslight women in 2018 (unless it is REALLY funny)!
The cheap-looking remake, from first-time director Rob Greenberg, is more palatable but sluggish, with Anna Faris as Kate, harried mother of three girls in a coastal Oregon town, and Mexican comic star Eugenio Derbez as Leonardo Montenegro, the arrogant billionaire who falls off his yacht after stiffing Kate on a carpet-cleaning job and ruining her equipment. Kate’s friend Theresa (Eva Longoria), inspired by telenovelas (the film is almost a parody of them), encourages Kate to falsify some photos and documents to make amnesia-stricken Leo think he’s married to her, then bring him home and make him work while she studies for her nursing exam.
The gender dynamic is certainly more comfortable this way. A woman and her three daughters ganging up on a man goes down smoother than a man and his sons misusing a woman, and Derbez’s belligerence makes his suffering more entertaining than sweet Goldie Hawn’s haughtiness did hers. The flip side, though, is that it’s no fun watching Anna Faris be mean, even to someone who deserves it. Once Kate has Leo working construction, doing the housework, and making dinner, she stops pretending to be a concerned wife — he’s supposedly a recovering alcoholic who fell off the wagon and washed up on the beach almost dead, for crying out loud! — and starts treating him like hired help. It’s always a letdown in ruse-centered movies when the people doing the ruses stop trying while the people being fooled continue to be fooled.
I’m not familiar with Derbez, who’s had Stateside hits with How to Be a Latin Lover and Instructions Not Included, but his performance here suggests he’s used to being bigger and sillier. Despite the farcical plot, Greenberg treats this like a mild, congenial rom-com, with only a few moments of slapstick or buffoonery. The original did the same thing … but the original had Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. When we get to the point in this one where Kate and Leo are being nice to each other, it merely confirms that Faris and Derbez have no chemistry together — not comedically, not romantically, barely even biologically. Their falling in love is even less plausible than her making him think they’re already married.
Clutter abounds in the form of extraneous characters. Leo, as “Dad,” helps the oldest daughter (Hannah Nordberg) with boys, and the youngest daughter (Payton Lepinski) with riding a bike, leaving the middle girl (Alyvia [sic] Alyn [sic] Lind) with no function in the story. Swoosie Kurtz appears briefly as Kate’s flighty mom just so she can take off and leave Kate with no babysitter. It’s essential to the story for Kate to need help with childcare; why not just have her, you know, NOT have a mother living nearby? It’s like Swoosie Kurtz was sitting around on the studio’s dime and some executive said, “Hey, find a day’s worth of work for her to do.” Best to forget the whole thing.
Note: The film is set in the same fictional town as the original, and the doctor notes that they’ve only ever seen one other case of amnesia: “a pretty woman back in the ’80s.” Strictly speaking, the events of the previous film existing in this world makes this a sequel, not a remake.
Second note: The fictional town is located on the Oregon coast, but it’s a magical part of the Oregon coast where autumn (the kids are in school and it’s football season) is marked by sunny, bright, picnicking, beach-going, outdoor-swimming-pool-building weather. In real life, the Oregon coast gets about 10 days like that per year, all between June and August, and not consecutively. Why not set it in California, especially with Leo’s wealthy family yachting up from Mexico to retrieve him?