Even in the most disposable parts that come her way—in cynical, annoyingly broad “comedies” only interested in solidifying a “ditzy” persona—Anna Faris manages to present effortless charm and impeccable comedic timing. Walking into Overboard with Faris PTSD flashbacks of The House Bunny and What’s Your Number, you may come out surprised with a by-the-numbers, yet surprisingly down-to-earth, tender and crackling rom-com.
The 1987 Overboard was a traditional rehashing of a beloved rom-com subgenre, one that goes back to the 1930s screwball comedies like It Happened One Night and Bringing up Baby: Our attractive protagonists begin the story by hating one another, they create an uncomfortable situation out of lies and spite, end up falling in love through that situation, the truth comes out during the second act break, then there’s the climax where they tell each other that the love indeed was real, and then everything ends up happily ever after. The original Overboard doesn’t stray from this formula one bit, and neither does the remake.
With the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, the upcoming Ocean’s 8, and this, a gender-swapped reimagining seems to be an idea to bring new life to previously existing properties. In this case, the switch in Overboard has thematic reasoning behind it. The original was about a working class man (Kurt Russell) using the amnesia of a rich, rude, out-of-touch woman (Goldie Hawn) to convince her that she’s married to him in order to give her a taste of the “lower class” life she so despises. Casting Anna Faris in the Kurt Russell role modernizes the story, tipping patriarchal norms, of a man providing for his family, on its head. Faris plays Kate, a working single mom with three jobs and an upcoming exam to become a nurse so she can better provide for her three daughters. Director Rob Greenberg taps into Faris’s innate relatability to dig deeper into her comedic fortes, giving her a chance to portray a constantly frustrated eccentric. Importantly, we feel her lack of opportunities in the current workforce. The fact that Faris manages to turn that into comedy gold is another testament to her talent.
The Goldie Hawn character is a now a rich man-baby named Leonardo (Eugenio Derbez), who spends his days sleeping with supermodels and treating his underlings like crap. By turning the character into a man, the remake touches on themes of toxic male entitlement, though both films toy with the idea that perhaps the only way for the rich to empathize with the poor is to spend a couple of months in their shoes. This point is emphasized when Leonardo finds himself working unskilled day labor, carrying around backbreaking bags of concrete produced by his father’s company. He might not have cared before that the company saved pesos here and there by making the bags extremely heavy, but when he’s the one saddled with carrying them? Still, this is a wholesome comedy with a family-oriented message, so Leonardo of course eventually comes to terms with the rewards of a simple life and a family that begins to warm up to him.
Faris and Derbez actually share a plenty of natural chemistry, and their supporting cast, made up of various international characters, gives the project a universal feel. Modern American working class life represented here isn’t portrayed in a manipulative, cynical manner, nor is it cloying. The film instead seems to be a celebration of how people from various backgrounds can come together under common goals and values. This isn’t altogether surprising since Overboard is heavily marketed to Mexican audiences (Eugenio Derbez is a massive star there)..
Of course Overboard suffers a bit for not having a single subversion from the usual rom-com formula, allowing us to predict every single story beat. The expected character arc that sees Leonardo switch from selfish jerk to selfless family man also happens a bit too suddenly. Yet that doesn’t stop it from ultimately being an effectively simple genre exercise that at least attempts to tackle some social issues. At the end of the day, you could do a whole lot worse.
Director: Rob Greenberg
Writers: Leslie Dixon, Bob Fisher, Rob Greenberg
Starring: Anna Faris, Eugenio Derbez, John Hannah, Eva Longoria, Swoosie Kurtz, Mel Rodriguez, Josh Segarra
Release Date: May 4, 2018