There aren’t a whole lot of comedy remakes that hit the mark. For proof I did a whole list on them earlier this week that you can view here. Going into the weekend there were some who felt that the latest attempt as modernizing a classic, “Overboard”, would break the underwhelming streak and provide substance for a genre in desperate need of some life. Unfortunately there were more who felt the remake would add to the track record. Honestly, it’s more the later, but “Overboard” has its charm that at least makes it a watchable comedy film to some extent. So let’s dive in to this attempt at comedy gold. This is my review of “Overboard”.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT
A remake of the 1987 film that starred Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, “Overboard” flips gender roles of its predecessor for a more modern take on the story. Spoiled playboy Leonardo (Eugenio Derbez) is the heir to a large Mexican company owned by his family and having been spoiled his whole life has become a drunk, reckless, spoiled and judgmental brat of a man. After he abuses the cleaning lady on his yacht named Kate (Anna Faris) he accidentally falls overboard and washes up on a beach with amnesia. Seeing and opportunity for revenge, Kate’s friend Theresa (Eva Longoria) convinces her to trick Leonardo into thinking he is Kate’s husband. The plan works and Kate forces Leonardo to work for Theresa’s brother in construction, sleep in a garden shed, and invents lies to cover up inconsistencies in their fake marriage to allow herself time to study for a nursing exam while Leonardo takes over the stresses of her life. However the plan backfires when Kate and Leonardo actually begin to fall in love and Leonardo embraces his position as a father figure. Leonardo soon begins to see life from a new perspective while Kate finds his contributions to her life meaningful. As a result, Kate must decide if she wants to continue the ruse or reveal the truth to her would-be husband.
Not everyone shines in this comedy which takes a long time to really become anything remotely close to amusing, but the core of the film, the second act, proves to be a strong point for the project with centerpiece actor Eugenio Derbez taking the helm. Derbez has become a pretty consistent comedic force and has quickly positioned himself as an influential Hispanic entertainer. To his credit he’s one of the few great things about the “Overboard” remake. Derbez completely hams up his role as a stuck-up playboy and drives home his selfishness and arrogance right off the bat in amusing fashion. While not really believable, this is a role that needed to go one of two ways, either slightly more serious or completely over the top and Derbez chose the latter, establishing a tone for the entire film that doesn’t really resonate all the way through, but it’s something. As Leonardo, Derbez does give us a somewhat believable and sincere transformation and his shifting from snob to thoughtful and humble family man makes for a refreshing character arc that most comedies fail to capture. It’s an example of Derbez’s talent and a credit to director Rob Greenburg and the writers, which included Bob Fisher and original writer Leslie Dixon. Sadly this is one of the few compliments the writers will get from me today.
I have to admit that “Overboard” as a whole didn’t quite do it for me, but I give the film credit for being a rare project that brought me in as the story progressed when I had already checked out. Once the second act picks up and the relationship between Leonardo and Kate begins to develop and blossom I actually found myself saying “damn this movie’s kind of working for me” and that’s a big deal because I’m not a huge fan of these kinds of comedies to begin with. When one starts off as slow as “Overboard” does it’s pretty impressive that it somehow charmed me enough to give it a second chance and see the story through. I was pleasantly surprised that while “Overboard” is not a good film it’s not as bad as I expected. It’s actually kind of charming if you don’t dig to deep into its flaw and touches on some relevant themes without feeling too preachy or phoning it in. The actors all seem to have a good time with the whole thing even if not everyone shines as brightly as expected.
“Overboard” is also amusing in its own special ways. It’s not funny all the time, in fact it’s usually not funny but I’ll get to the in a minute. But, when it hits the mark it hits a bulls-eye and can bring a great chuckle here and there. The jokes that DO work are enough to amuse and again most of the credible and memorable humor is confined to the second act which is by far the most memorable and engaging segment of the film. It’s there that we get to see Leonardo grow to appreciate the struggles of lower-middle class life, the effort it takes to be a part of the workforce and the joys and stresses of being a parent especially of a trio of growing young girls. The comedy that ensues through the marriage ruse only builds on that family dynamic which in a strange way makes “Overboard” or at least one third of “Overboard”, a pretty charming family comedy that I don’t think it intended to be.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Despite a great second act and an all-in performance by its leading man “Overboard” remains a flawed attempt to recapture the joy and fun of the original romantic romp as it starts off slow and messy and ends on the most predictable notes possible. The first act just lost me right out of the gate. Yes I got back into the film later on, but “Overboard” kicks off on rough waters (pun intended) and takes a while to get its sea legs with failed jokes and only Eugenio Derbez chewing every scene giving it any kind of comedic substance. The second act finally provides something to appreciate, but the third and final act retracts much of the redeemable aspects of the movie by settling for a typical cliché comedy ending that we can see coming from a mile away. All-in-all it’s an off pace movie-going experience that goes from terrible to salvageable to predictable in less than two hours.
Going back to the acting, while Eugenio Derbez is fine in this film I really wasn’t a fan of the rest of the cast or their characters. This was meant to be an important vehicle for Anna Faris to re-energize her career, but while Faris isn’t horrible she’s not really great either. Her character, Kate, is unlikable and falls flat in every way. We’re supposed to cheer for this woman to get her revenge but once we see how she goes about it she’s actually a pretty horrible person herself and the problem is the film wastes a great opportunity to draw attention to that instead sweeping it under the rug like it wasn’t a big deal. While some of the family moments can be touching, there’s very little chemistry between Faris and Derbez and Fasris just feels awkward most of the time. This only adds to the already unlikable personality of her character as we’re never quite sure who she really is other than an aspiring nurse and struggling mother of three. The rest of the cast isn’t much better as Eva Longoria and the other supporting actors in the project are all equally horrible in their own way, but at least the film offers they opportunities at redemption as they actually begin to appreciate Leonardo during his transformation. It takes Kate much longer to come around. That said, we’re supposed to see these people as the good guys, but they’re not. They’re just as vindictive as the man they seek to humiliate and by the film’s end Leonardo is actually the most redeemable person in this entire film. That might have been the idea, but I’m sure this was not how the filmmakers wanted to make that point.
Finally, despite some of the comedy coming off as genuinely funny, there’s a lot of it that doesn’t work. When the laughs come, they come in bunches and are satisfying, but when they fall flat (and they usually do) they REALLY fall flat. It doesn’t help that much of the early comedy is actually very mean spirited and justifies my comments about the unlikable nature of the characters in this film. It was hard to sit there and tell myself that I actually wanted to see a woman who makes a man sleep in a garden shed and pee in a bottle come out on top in the end. That’s not funny, that’s mean and yes comedy often IS mean but not like this. Being mean just to be mean in hopes that people find it amusing offers nothing humorous at all. “Overboard” takes its “just desserts” plot line SO literally that the writers apparently thought fans would overlook the nasty nature of these punishments and find them ridiculous and laughable, but I didn’t. Even if I was willing to overlook the mean spirited nature of these actions they wouldn’t be funny and maybe that’s why they seem so terrible. They’re not even amusing to begin with. Again, there are great moments, like Leonardo slipping on spaghetti, that are simple, subtle and make you laugh but they’re few and far between when compared to the unwarranted and frankly abusive punishments Leonardo is put through.
“Overboard” is not a great movie. It’s not even a good movie…but I have a hard time calling it terrible and unwatchable. It has its moments and performed an near-impossible feat by actually bringing my back into the story after I had already checked out so there’s something here to enjoy, it’s just not much. The funny moments are really funny, the second act is by far the best part of the film, and Eugenio Derbez is a fun lead actor who owns his opportunity to shine but that’s about it. The rest of the humor is more mean than funny, the other characters who we are actually supposed to like are unlikable and the film starts as a mess and ends on the most typical note the writers could have ever thought up. The good thing is I can’t say “Overboard” should have never been made. There’s enough substance here when compared to the original that it feels warranted even if inferior to the first. But I do think the filmmakers bit off more than they could chew trying to modernize this concept for a new audience and didn’t quite iron out the direction they wanted to take and how to get from the start to the finish properly. While I didn’t completely hate it, I think “Overboard” is a remake that has a hard time staying afloat and is probably better off forgotten.