OVERBOARD – CHARMING ROM-COM WITH A POSITIVE MESSAGE ABOUT TRUE WEALTH AND FAMILIES

SHORT TAKE:

Romantic comedy which teaches the lessons that all the hedonistic pleasures money can buy can not compare to the joyful satisfaction of raising a family who needs you, and that both a father and a mother are indispensable to completing a home, especially when you have children.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT:

This movie is really for late teens and 20 somethings and up. There is a little bit of language, some unmarried unseen sexual activity and conversations about condoms and infidelity. Nothing you really want to have to explain to a younger teen. But the lessons for what is the correct demographic target are definitely worth your time.

LONG TAKE:

When Nate Ruess of the band Fun was being interviewed in 2011 for their big hit single "We Are Young" one of the recurring topics was appearing to be an overnight success. No one had really heard of them until this popular single. In fact they had been touring and rehearsing and playing night clubs for 10 years. It is almost cliche to consider that most overnight successes … are not. They are the result of years, if not decades, of serious, heartbreaking, back-breaking effort.

Such is, I expect, going to be the case for Eugenio Derbez, who is the Mexican born lead in the remake of Overboard.

Overboard was originally a 1987 vehicle for Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, a real life couple, who respectively play Dean, a poor widowed carpenter with three boys and Joanna a rich woman living on a yacht. Joanna falls off her yacht and is stricken with amnesia, then taken in, in both senses of the term, by Dean. Joanna had peevishly refused to pay Dean for some carpentry work done on her yacht. So Dean decides to retrieve her from the hospital and convince her she is his wife. The relationship is completely platonic. All Dean wants her to do is enough housework, cooking and babysitting to reimburse him for the work he had done for her.

The setup is similar in the new 2018 version of Overboard, only this time the genders are switched. Kate, played by Anna Faris (Chris Pratt's ex-wife) and Leo, Eugenio Derbez, are the couple this time.

SOME SPOILERS

Kate is a struggling widow of three little girls, holding down two jobs while studying for her nursing board exam. One of her jobs is to carpet clean and she is sent out to tend to the carpets of billionaire Leonardo’s yacht. Leonardo is the playboy son of a corporate magnet. He refuses to pay her for her work and literally throws her and her equipment off his yacht – pretty much just because he can. He is not really intentionally cruel, just so self-absorbed he doesn't consider the consequences of his actions. 

Later that night, in a drunken stupor, he falls off his yacht and washes up on shore with amnesia. Leonardo’s conniving sister, Sophia, in order to get Leonardo’s share of their elderly and ill father’s corporation, decides to abandon her obnoxious brother, denying his identity in the hospital and tells everyone he was eaten by a shark. Anna and her friends see Leo on the news and concoct a plan, using forged documents and a borrowed wedding ring, to pretend that he is her wayward alcoholic husband having blacked out after a binge. She arranges for him to work several jobs in order for her to catch up on the bills, study for her exam, and pay for the equipment that he ruined.

Being a romantic comedy the outcome is pretty much a foregone conclusion. That is perfectly fine with me. I love happy ending where the only real suspense is in trying to figure out HOW the star crossed lovers are going to overcome the obstacles, not IF.

Not only are the genders of the protagonists switched in this version of Overboard but the genders of the children involved as well. This will become significant in a moment.

Gender switching doesn't always serve a useful purpose in remakes. One of the most egregiously bad examples is the Marlo Thomas version of It's a Wonderful Life. Miss Thomas, as sweet, as wonderful, and as generous a humanitarian as she is, made a terrible female George Bailey-type character in this embarrassingly bad adaptation. Similarly, Ghostbusters did not benefit and gained nothing from switching the all-male crew to an all-female crew. The verdict is still out on what the Oceans franchise is going to look like with an all female crew of con…people. And even the brilliant Helen Mirren could not bring a female Prospero up to speed in a 2010 remake of The Tempest.

However, in the case of this year’s Overboard, the switch – like one installed by a good electrician —  works. Not only does the gender switching shed some new light on the dynamics of the fish-out-of-water tale, but I think helps facilitate a more thorough examination of the theme as well as highlights the subtext.

In both of the Overboard movies, the main theme demonstrates that all the material benefits and hedonistic pleasures of the world cannot compete with the soul core satisfying responsibilities of being a good spouse and raising children in a home with a mom and a dad.

But, in addition, there is a subtle subtext which is never spoken out loud, but in conjunction with the gender switched original, becomes more obvious. In the first Overboard, Hawn’s character turns the boys’ house into a home – cleaning, decorating, nurturing, and erupting into a fiercely protective mama bear when the need arises. In the second one, Leo converts the simple home the girls have created into a castle – repairing, providing, counseling, calming the harried mother Kate down, providing the protection the family needs for the women now in his life to blossom, and intervening as a watchful papa bear when the need arises. Both movies make clear that no matter how capable the single parent, no matter the gender of the children, that the entire family thrives more readily in the circled arms of both a mother and a father.

I’ve brought this up in other blogs before, but to reiterate, this does not mean that there are not amazing single parents whose Herculean efforts are not appreciated, or that a single, caring, God fearing, hard working parent can not raise wonderful children. But those same single parents are likely to be the first ones to agree that having a mom AND a dad together to raise children is the ideal.

To be sure, both Overboards are kind of silly in their exposition, but then again, so are the setups for Aesop's Fables. What difference does it make that the vehicle is a bit cartoonish, as long as a valuable lesson is beautifully taught? For example, Leo confides to his fellow construction workers how disconnected he feels to this family, how he doesn’t really recognize Kate as his wife and how he feels like he belongs somewhere else. Understandably, the other men assume his dismay is part of a mid-life crisis and reminisce about how their married relationships have changed. But one of the older men, Vito (Jesus Ochoa) reminds Leo that, as a married man, he has a responsibility to forget all that, "be a man" and appreciate the fact he has a good job, beautiful healthy children who love him, and a wife who has (he thinks) stuck by him through thick and thin – in short to stop moaning and count all of his blessings. Good advice under any circumstances. 

I love the title with its multiple applications. Overboard: 1. how the rich protagonist gets amnesia, by falling …………, 2. refers to the cockamamie plan the poor antagonist concocts, in order to get their money they may have gone just a bit…………., and 3. reflects how the protagonists will eventually feel about each other – that they will eventually dive head first into their relationship like someone diving ………….

And speaking of over – anything, as for being an overnight success, Eugenio Derbez has been a popular actor in Mexico for some time and is no stranger to family supportive themed movies. In Instructions Not Included he plays yet another irresponsible playboy who is presented unexpectedly with a baby daughter to raise. The responsibility makes a man out of him as he decides to be a good father.

However, despite the fact that Derbez has had a thriving career in Mexican TV and film since 1994, Derbez is only just now coming to the attention of the American moviegoer with Overboard. If Mr. Derbez continues making movies like this one, I suspect he will soon be perceived as an overnight success here.

So, if you fall into the right demographic age group, go see this charming rom-com where the characters realize that a rich life is more important than having a life full of riches and which points out that children thrive best with a steady mother figure and a father figure in their lives.

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