'Overboard': Film Review

Nearly dead comedy gets some CPR halfway through.

Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez star in a gender-flipped remake of the 1987 Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell comedy.

Total amnesia as a comedic trope has been played out for decades, but it drags itself out of the depths for Overboard, a remake of Garry Marshall's 1987 Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell vehicle. Reversing gender roles to have Mexican comedy star Eugenio Derbez play the spoiled billionaire and Anna Faris the working-class mom who exploits him, first-time directors Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg start off with a movie so dull it threatens to vanish from the viewer's memory before it's even finished. Things get better midway through, with the directors' screenplay finally playing to the talents of at least one of its stars, Derbez. Even so, the pic is as unlikely to expand his fan base in the States as it is to further Faris' once-promising career on the big screen.

Faris plays Kate, a young Oregon widow raising three girls while working two jobs and tolerating one unreliable mom (Swoozie Kurtz). Mom was supposed to be caring for the kids during Kate's last month of studying for a nursing exam, but she just ran off to join a touring theater troupe, leaving Kate in the lurch.

Derbez is Leonardo, the son of a construction-materials magnate. While his sister Magda (Cecilia Suarez) slaves away at the family business, hoping to take control when their father dies, Leonardo lives in a "floating orgy": hot-tubbing and boozing and canoodling with models on a giant yacht named "Birthday Present." He's a caricature of pampered brattiness far too thin to be funny, and his introduction to Kate is even less credible: She's hired to come clean the yacht's carpet, and when she refuses to fetch Leonardo some snacks, he pushes her overboard as he motors out to sea. Without paying her for her work, of course.

He goes overboard himself just hours later, tumbling drunkenly and waking up on the Oregon coast with no idea who he is. Magda concocts a story that he was killed by sharks, so nobody is looking for him. Learning of his situation, Kate and her friend Theresa (Eva Longoria) hatch a pretty ridiculous plan: They go to the hospital to tell doctors and Leonardo that he is Kate's husband, Leo, a long-sober alcoholic who fell off the wagon and went missing recently. Kate brings Leo home with the idea that he'll pay off what he owes her (with interest) by being her domestic slave.

Predictably if tardily, a funny thing happens on the way to poetic justice: Leo starts to become a decent man. As a performer, Derbez opens up as the script gives him slightly more interesting things to do. He flounders when working in a menial job: Co-workers dub him "Lady Hands" for his unfamiliarity with labor, but their teasing is friendly. In the film's most pointed scene, he sits with his fellow Mexican immigrants on a lunch break, admitting to them that he feels like he's living somebody else's life — that he's supposed to have more. They all feel that way, and tell him to appreciate what he does have.

Though she has found some amusing ways to keep Leo out of the marital bed they supposedly used to share, Kate begins to warm up to Leo as he connects with her three kids, learning to appreciate American football for their sake (oddly, he doesn't remember the rules) and teaching them things Kate has been too busy to pass along. Single-parent advocates may not appreciate just how wonderful things get for Kate as soon as she has a husband, but by the dumbed-down standards of contemporary romantic comedy, the chemistry works well enough.

The pic's vision of this odd but happy family is sufficiently warm that we start to worry about the end game; at some point, Leo's going to be outed as an amnesiac billionaire who has been duped by a penniless single mom. The film wrings a couple of laughs from near misses, though these scenes (like the rest of the film) are hardly tailored to Faris' screwball gifts. Maybe Fisher and Greenberg recently fell from a yacht as well, and forgot how funny she can be.

Production company: 3Pas Studios
Distributors: Lionsgate, Pantelion
Cast: Anna Faris, Eugenio Derbez, John Hannah, Eva Longoria, Mel Rodriguez, Cecilia Suarez
Directors-screenwriters: Bob Fisher, Rob Greenberg
Producers: Eugenio Derbez, Ben Odell
Executive producer: Brendan Ferguson
Director of photography: Michael Barrett
Production designer: Brent Thomas
Costume designer: Karin Nosella
Editor: Lee Haxall
Composer: Lyle Workman
Casting directors: Tricia Wood, Lisa Zagoria

In English and Spanish
Rated PG-13, 112 minutes