The late 80s Garry Marshall directed romantic comedy “Overboard” starring real-life couple Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell was a breezy, amiable vehicle suitable for the celebrity tandem’s collaborative cinematic exposure. The Hawn-Russell cheeky pet project was not necessarily a rom-com that waded in the deep end of watery hysterics, but it still proved to be a goofy, good-natured farce with laces of poignancy.
Now nearly three decades later writer/director Rob Greenberg (Emmy Award winning producer for the TV series “Frasier”) works to wipe off the inches of dust on the wealthy getting their comeuppance comedy and re-brand it as a pseudo-reboot for the #MeToo millennium-era crowd. Unfortunately, Greenberg’s Overboard, a gender swapping edition of the “opposites attract” formula, has all the comedic and intimate support system of a faulty life preserver in choppy waves.
Greenberg, delves into this toothless update of the zippy 80’s screwball comedy with heavy-handed predictability, sluggishness and unimaginative kookiness. Leading the laughs is Anna Faris (“The House Bunny”) who takes on the role once inhabited by Russell, but with the distinct physicality and girl-next-store bubbly spark of Hawn. The glaring difference, however, is that Hawn’s charisma as the pampered heiress is what convincingly fueled the original and uplifted the otherwise trivial material. Faris does not have the same level of energetic, dippy instincts to drive this dismissive version beyond the confines of its watery prison.
Neither, in fact, does international Mexican screen star Eugenio Derbez (“How to Be a Latin Lover”), who Faris shares top-billing with. Derbez, serving as star and producer for the film, wallows in this tired and nutty vanity piece as the super-privileged Leonardo Montenegro. Leonardo seemingly has it all: Good looks and an extremely wealthy Mexican family covering all his bills. Deemed as spoiled, arrogant and devilish, the Latin Lothario goes about his playful business (which includes chilling out on his yacht named Birthday Present with bikini-clad bimbos) while never caring for a moment how his asinine behavior affects those around or beneath him. One of the commoners that Leonardo mistreats is single mom Kate Sullivan (Faris) who finds out just how mean-spirited and petty the man is.
Kate, a working-class stiff that delivers pizza and cleans carpets, not only gets tossed off the yacht by the obnoxious snob Leonardo, but he does not pay for her services either. Of course the rotten Leonardo will soon get his just deserts (and Kate her turn at karma) when a freakish storm results in causing the pivotal plotline to unfold. Specifically, Leonardo falls off the boat only to end up ashore with a bruised memory — the rich jerk has no recollection of what an immensely rich jerk he is.
Conveniently, Kate’s gal pal Theresa (Eva Longoria, “Over Her Dead Body”) suggests that her unpaid and humiliated friend get even with the amnesiac Leonardo for his misdeeds. Overwhelmed Kate, feeling dejected as of late with minding her three girls, realizes that Theresa’s cynical plan to claim Leonardo as her husband has some merit. Why not get some deserved payback? And with Kate’s actress mother Grace (stage, TV and screen vet Swoosie Kurtz) out of town and no one else around to babysit her children this is a golden opportunity to rope the unaware Leonardo into being a family man to assist with the familial duties. While Leonardo actively tends to the girls and household chores Kate can spend more time with her nursing studies in order to escape the low-paying drudgery of odd jobs and make something of herself professionally.
Unfortunately though, this Faris-Derbez union feels labored and detached while bringing absolutely no intrigue, impishness, insight or naughtiness to the conventional realm of working class warfare between the haves and have-nots. The duo merely eek out the weakening chuckles in a tepid script tediously concocted by Greenberg and Bob Fisher (“We’re the Millers”) as adapted from Leslie Dixon’s original story. Most inexplicable is poor Faris, the familiar name for American moviegoers, does not even seem to get her rightful share of the featured slapstick, as the problematic rich-rascal-turned-henpecked-husband Derbez gets the meatier jokes as he bumbles his way through his construction job (set up by Theresa’s husband Bobby [Mel Rodriguez, “Brave New Jersey”]) and household duties.
Mawkish and manipulative, the sinkable Overboard is no more than a big drip that besmirches the memory of the original. The gimmicky twist in switching up the male/female roles to differentiate this from the 1987 version (Faris/Russell vs. Derbez/Hawn) does nothing to add new or reinvent and really just further cements the production to nothing more than a dandy of a dud retread. Youngsters are encouraged to seek out the first rather than this second to get their laughs at the clash of social classes. To not do so would leave them all wet.