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 Stays Afloat  

Anna Faris
Anna Faris
 112 Minutes
Directed by: Rob Greenberg
Starring: Eugenio Derbez, Anna Faris  

Sometimes, it’s a mystery why certain films get remade, but in the case of Overboard, a 2018 re-imagining of a 1987 romantic comedy with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, the answer is two simple words: Eugenio Derbez. The Mexican actor is enormously popular in his native country but almost unknown in American films, save for a few supporting roles that make little use of his talent. And, at age 56 (albeit a remarkably fit looking 56), his biological clock as a leading man is definitely ticking. Although Overboard probably won’t be the star-making vehicle Derbez is hoping for, his considerable charms, plus those of his American co-star Anna Faris, make the film better than it would have been in nearly any other hands.


The original Overboard featured Hawn as a snooty heiress who is incredibly cruel to carpenter Russell but then suffers a bout of amnesia after, you guessed it, falling off her yacht. Widower Russell and his sons pretend she is his wife, turn her into a typical sitcom harried housewife, and eventually romantic sparks fly, even after Hawn recovers her memory and realizes what a jerk she originally was. It’s by no means a classic, but, in the hands of Garry Marshall, who practically grew up on this sort of material, it worked well enough to hang around as a video staple until being re-discovered by Derbez.


This time around, it’s Derbez who is the rich jerk, a Mexican playboy named Leonardo, who is the son of the world’s third richest man and who spends his days lounging on his yacht and his nights bedding a succession of willing bimbos. Faris is Kate, a widow with three daughters juggling two jobs, one as a cleaner who is hired to work on Leonardo’s yacht while it is in port. She subsequently loses that job and her floor scrubber when Leonardo throws first the scrubber and then Kate into the ocean (see clip below).


As in the earlier film, however, revenge comes when a nearly naked Leonardo falls overboard and Kate realizes who he is from a brief news report noting that he has lost his memory. Kate whips up some phony documents and a phonier story and takes the befuddled Leonardo home with her. In no time, she has convinced him that the two have been a couple and that Leonardo agreed to help out around the house so Kate could study for her nursing exam. Further, Leonardo gets put to work as a construction worker for Bobby (Mel Rodriguez), the husband of Kate’s best friend Theresa (Eva Longoria).


Somewhat predictably, Leonardo, who has never worked a day in his life, struggles at first (resulting in some of the few outright funny moments in Overboard) but begins to get the hang of honest physical labor. At the same time, he proves himself rather adept at housework and cooking, improving on Kate’s spaghetti recipe. At the same time, he helps his “daughters” out, even teaching the youngest to ride a bike, and tries to use his romantic charm on Kate (who has him sleeping in the utility shed at first).


The idea of a very wealthy and arrogant person suddenly having to come to grips with being poor has been a staple of movie comedies for decades (remember Dan Aykroyd’s plight in Trading Places?) and it’s a reliable staple when in the hands of a talented comic actor like Derbez. Unfortunately, the framework of Overboard undercuts that central premise. Leonardo was a rich jerk, but now he’s an ignorant yet innocent schnook who finds himself trying to make the best of what he can. The film ruins many of the possibilities for comedy in this situation by turning Leonardo into a pretty decent chef and even more decent guy instead of making every single attempt at work work and housework into an unmitigated comic disaster.


Director Rob Greenberg makes  his feature film debut here after a career spent mostly in TV sitcoms, and his background shows. Overboard’s main storyline plays it very safe, down to a very huggy, feely ending (in a movie like this, such a reveal can’t possibly qualify as a spoiler). In fact, Faris and Derbez have that longtime sitcom married couple vibe of being together without any real sparks, even when the plot tries to kindle some between them. Oddly enough, however, I found the ending of the movie somewhat satisfying on a sitcom, comfort food type of level.


Ironically, the comic elements that work best are the ones that Derbez introduced into the 30-year-old script as a result of making his character Mexican. Instead of Goldie Hawn’s snooty relatives (including a soon-to-be ex-hubby played by Edward Herrmann), Leonardo’s family comes straight out of a telenovela, complete with a possibly dying father, a scheming sister, and a nicer sister. The material isn’t laugh-out-loud hilarity, but it is cleverly done, although Greenberg and his co-writer Bob Fisher spoil it somewhat by mentioning the telenovela similarities about a half dozen time in the movie.


Derbez’s influence shows up in other areas as well. Nearly half the dialogue in the movie is in subtitled Spanish, including all the scenes involving Leonardo’s family and his scenes with his fellow construction workers, all of whom are Hispanic as well (including one who likes to quote from The Godfather a great deal). This abundance of Spanish dialogue is an attempt, and a fairly successful one, to bridge the cultural divide and keep Spanish-speaking audiences interested in the movie while bringing in more mainstream audiences as well. Sadly, the film will probably play better with the Spanish-speaking audiences for whom Derbez’s charm is enough to carry the movie.


Overboard suffers from the same flaw that many romantic comedies do nowadays. It’s not that funny as a comedy, with most of the good material eliciting chuckles rather than belly laughs, and it’s not all that passionate a romance. The script has a few subtle zingers (including shout-outs to Jaws and the original version of the film), but it sags in the repetitive middle (at nearly two hours long, it’s a bit of chore to get through), and, in the end, it falls back on the charm of the cast. Fortunately, Derbez, Faris, and their co-stars do just enough to keep this movie above water. Overboard will probably tank at the box office, but it’s likely, just like its predecessor, to keep afloat in the video market for quite a while.

In this featurette, Eugenio Derbez makes a bad first impression on Anna Faris.

Read other reviews of Overboard: 

Overboard (2018) on IMDb