When we discussed the 1987 screwball farce Overboard on an episode of our podcast, I wondered aloud what the point of remaking Garry Marshall’s original might be. I swiftly concluded the world has no use for such a thing, and it turns out I was right, as I tend to be. This version, a gender-swapped retread starring Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez in place of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, has no point to make, unless of course you consider slotting a female into a traditionally male role to be some kind of profound statement on representational parity.
We’ll get to that in due time. First, though, plot. The original saw Russell as a struggling carpenter and father of four, who, after being stiffed on the bill for repair work on the luxury yacht of Hawn’s pampered rich-bitch caricature, took advantage of her post-accident memory loss to convince her she was his wife and the mother of his children. The point of this kidnapping (which was addressed, albeit not entirely satisfactorily) was to have her work off what she owed him by performing a barrage of household chores. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they fell in love by the end.
This Overboard casts the knobbly knees of Faris in the Russell role as Kate, a blue-collar mother of three girls working two menial jobs while studying to get a nursing degree. That’s not an entirely progressive choice of career, I admit, but you can’t expect the writers of such tripe – Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg (who also directs); I’ll let you figure out what those two have in common – to do their due diligence in evoking the contemporary feminine experience. Not that I have much clue about that experience myself, mind, but then again I don’t make movies that are purportedly about the empowerment of #MeToo-era womanhood, and if I did you can rest assured they would be better than this one.
Nevertheless, she runs into Leonardo (Derbez), proprietor of the luxury yacht she’s cleaning and the champagne-soaked playboy heir to the third-largest fortune in the world, so we’re told. There are disagreements, both find themselves overboard, and when Leonardo washes up on the beach he has no knowledge of his identity. Kate, seizing the opportunity, poses as his wife, dumps the housework on him, forces him to go and get a physically demanding construction job, and makes him sleep in the garage.
The original Overboard motored along mostly on the strength of a winning script by Leslie Dixon, but also the authentic chemistry of its leads, who were and continue to be a real-life couple. Faris and Derbez have no such thing. He’s far too old for the part, and the only thing they share is a palpable disdain for the material. In his home country, Derbez is a major star, and his role here is intended to help him reach a wider audience. This, I suspect, is why he’s the only character who gets an arc, and why the bulk of the film forgoes romance in favour of him bonding with his fellow working-class Mexicans.
Examining the racial makeup of Elk Grove, Oregon (the same setting as the original) is admittedly a more contemporary lane for Overboard to occupy, but it seems disingenuous to focus on the male lead when swapping the roles was very much marketed as the point of the remake. Faris’s big scene is owning up to her deception, whereas Derbez gets several, which he admittedly does his best to sell. In the few fleeting instances in which Overboard actually works, it does so because of him.
I don’t feel a particular way about this, but it strikes me as odd, and symptomatic of Overboard’s general status as a pale imitation of the original that doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Faris gets a few zingers, but not nearly as many as you might expect, and you have to wonder whether the better path to female empowerment might not be remaking classic movies with the roles shuffled around, but instead telling new, interesting stories about women. Just a thought.