A common film formula found in 1980’s slapstick comedies is the riches-to-rags storyline in which a wealthy character is subjected to living like a member of a lower class. Some of these characters can be wretched, vile human beings who scoff at earning an honest living or completing the simplest of tasks by themselves. This is exemplified in Trading Places, where a wealthy, young executive is framed and subsequently forced to switch lives with a homeless hustler. Other films such as Coming to America also shine light on socio-economic status and class divisions as a means to propel a comparison on how another person lives.
In the end, these comedies are usually grounded in a humbling experience in which the anti-hero or protagonist learns the simplicities of life can be just as enjoyable as its luxuries. Now, add a romantic comedy narrative combining elements of amnesia, lack of consent, and sexism into the mixture and you have Garry Marshall’s 1987 screwball flick Overboard. Revisiting this zany film in present-day among the MeToo movement makes the original storyline borderline cringe-worthy as if love can magically erase those undertones and legal ramifications. Therefore, a remake in 2018 is both a bold and questionable decision.
Director Rob Greenberg’s experienced background in television is evident through his quirky sitcom style coupled with overly dramatic performances and storylines reminiscent of telenovelas. The only thing missing would be an artificial laugh track since the jokes are abundant, yet fall flat while mostly trying to anchor themselves in sex and flamboyant cultural stereotypes. The film stars Anna Faris (playing a bubbly and ambitious blonde who mirrors her character on CBS’ TV show Mom) and Eugenio Derbez (How to Be a Latin Lover) who never develop any believable or even appealing on-screen chemistry--especially not to the degree Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell achieved in the original, given their thirty-plus-year romance lasting long after the credits rolled.
Faris plays Kate, a single mom of three young girls, who works multiple jobs while trying to obtain her nursing degree. One of her side-gigs leads her to clean the carpets on a luxury yacht (aptly named Birthday Present) owned by wealthy playboy Leonardo (Derbez). Leo’s backhanded compliments, sexual advances, and pompous demeanor solidifies Kate’s aversion towards him; and when she refuses to leave the boat without her earnings from the day, she and her equipment are pushed overboard. Drunk on the finest booze only the son of the world’s third-richest person in the world can enjoy, Leo stumbles overboard later that night and is washed to shore donning only a bathrobe, a row of packaged condoms in its pocket, and a case of amnesia. Magdalena (Cecilia Suárez), Leo’s sister who wishes to take over the family business while their father is on his deathbed, realizes Leo is in the hospital but purposefully refuses to claim him as family. The news travels to Kate while she is working at a pizza shop with her three girls in tow quietly doing their homework at one of the tables. Her best friend, Theresa (Eva Longoria) convinces Kate to pretend that she is Leo’s wife so that she can obtain the money he owes her and have ample time to study for her exam. Forged documents in hand, Leo is brought home to live the “poor” life with Kate and learn the values of hard work while being falsely labeled as a recovering alcoholic to ensure sexual distance, self-control, and safety around Kate’s kids.
The self-absorbed and shallow qualities Leo previously possessed unrealistically melt away and are replaced with respectful boundaries when he is made to sleep in a shed outside, cook, clean, and care for Kate’s daughters. Her distaste for Leo also fades with the initiation of him bringing home ice cream after a long day’s work of manual labor, a job Theresa’s husband, Bobby, helped him obtain. The film’s dialogue is continuously mundane while Leo is kept in check by co-workers who make fun of his lack of physical strength and the relationship with his faux wife.
Bobby, Mel Rodriguez (The Last Man on Earth), strengthens the comedic elements by providing both witty and relatable commentary on Leo and Kate’s dynamic. The subplot of Leo’s family also adds a breath of fresh air by producing a layer of drama that is absent from the original, causing choppy waters of emotion to arouse the truth of what really happened after he fell into the sea. There are several awkward scenes replicated from the original film and a couple of cute nods which reinforce a sense of sincerity in Greenberg’s attempt to do justice for a new generation. The most enjoyable aspect of the remake is the representation of Hispanic culture and gender nonconformity. A large portion of the film is in subtitles, as Spanish is predominantly spoken by several cast members, and Hispanic characters range from the elite to day laborers. Multiple actors hail from Mexico and have backgrounds in theater, producing, editing, and directing. Kate’s daughter, Olivia (Blended’s Alyvia Alyn Lind), is also progressive in her representation by playing on an all-boys football team and wearing a tuxedo at the end of the film.
However, the gender role reversal of the main characters - a female manipulating a male into servitude - does not translate as a progressive notion despite an honest, subversive attempt at modern-day equality. The dark undertones of consent, legality, and morality still linger like an awkward silence or another crude joke in the film that just doesn’t resonate. There is nothing empowering about the Stockholm Syndrome plot being improved upon because a female is the conspirator, and therefore this doesn’t serve as a cinematic refinement to a dubious cult classic. Additionally, the exuberant acting coupled with the monotonous script are not strongly cohesive enough in their delivery. While the riches-to-rags narrative has its merit in themes of humility, the limited strengths of the film are ultimately too adrift and cannot resuscitate the lack of engaging entertainment.