Nobody asked for an Overboard remix, so maybe it was right that the movie got dragged by critics. I already did a number on the original, but hating the idea of this movie is one way to be pleasantly surprised by some of the story’s retooling. It turns out the flipping the script and reversing gender roles can improve things. My main problem with the 1987 film is that the insufferable socialite who’s tossed overboard finds herself exploited by the man she’s cheated. He takes advantage of her vulnerability and then justifies that behavior by pointing finger at her and not himself, all of which is played for laughs and a sense of karma. So what happens when the one in need of his comeuppance is a man? Well, something a little more nuanced.
Kate (Anna Faris), for one, is a lot more sympathetic than the Kurt Russell character she is based on. She actually feels guilty about fooling Leo (Eugenio Derbez), the playboy bachelor and now amnesiac, into thinking he is her husband. It’s a last ditch move by a young widow who knows she can’t continue to juggle three girls, two jobs, and a nursing exam, especially after her mom’s popped off to do some community theater. Revenge is not the aim so much as it is a simple need to keep her life from falling apart. She sets the unsuspecting Leo up with a punishing construction job so that she have money for the mortgage. She enlists his help to cook dinner and get the groceries so she has more time to study. At no point does she abdicate her own responsibilities towards work or family.
Crucially, the power dynamics shift. Kate manipulates Leo, and criminal behavior is criminal behavior, but she doesn’t have complete control over him. He gains independence through his ability to work, and that in turn gives him a network of friends and coworkers. Leo takes cues about how to be husband and father, but he has a lot more room to shape his new identity. He is not trapped at home or at the mercy of people who could take advantage of him physically or sexually, and this telling change makes all the difference. In fact, it’s Kate who must remain guarded. She comes up with an excuse to keep him out of her bedroom and, having seen the way he used to demean women, is wary of letting him alone with her/their daughters. So it is that even a woman who seems to have all the power still does not.
I’ll own to be one of the few people who enjoyed this movie, certainly if we’re comparing it to the original. Its better hold on gender also extends to supporting characters. Kate’s kids each have a distinct personality, and Leo’s two sisters are a riot. Responsible, business-minded Magdalena (Cecilia Suárez) has her eye on the family’s company, but their father favors Leo despite his life of debauchery. I can’t say she’s entirely wrong for pretending her brother was devoured by sharks.
Most of my criticism is directed at the humor, which could be dialed up several notches. Though the laughs are consistent, they’re never very strong. Faris is delightfully neurotic, per usual, and keeps things funny while also being the adult in the room. She and Derbez aren’t always tuned to the same comedic wavelength though. They’re an odd couple not only because of age but also because he tends to be more deliberate and over-the-top in his delivery. In his eagerness to get laughs, he just doesn’t get many. I hope we’ll see more of Derbez and the other Mexican actors regardless. This kind of mainstream cross-production is the kind of cinema I want more of, where large chunks of Spanish dialogue is just a natural thing.
Prod: Eugenio Derbez, Benjamin Odell, Bob Fisher
Dir: Rob Greenberg
Writer: Bob Fisher, Rob Greenberg, Leslie Dixon
Cast: Eugenio Derbez, Anna Faris, Eva Longoria, Mel Rodriguez, Hannah Nordberg, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Peyton Lepinski, Fernando Luján, Cecilia Suárez, Mariana Treviño, John Hannah, Swoosie Kurtz
Time: 112 min
Lang: English, Spanish
Country: United States