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‘Overboard’ offers surprisingly smooth sailing

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Hollywood’s recent reliance on remakes and reboots has become almost a self-fulfilling prophecy as of late – people see them because that’s what available and the studios make more of them because people are going to see them and on and on. We’re in chicken/egg territory, only we’ve stopped caring which actually came first.

That line of thinking inevitably results in something like “Overboard.”

It’s a remake of the 1987 film of the same name that starred Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn and became something of a basic-cable staple and is remembered affectionately despite a comic premise built on lies, gaslighting and kidnapping. Not a spectacular success, but a story that is familiar (albeit problematic), making it ripe for a remake.

This time around, we’ve got Kate (Anna Faris, “The Emoji Movie”), a struggling single mother who is juggling multiple jobs while trying to study for and pass her nursing exam. Her three daughters are Emily (Hannah Nordberg, “Girlfriend’s Day”), Olivia (Alyvia Alyn Lind, TV’s “The Young and the Restless”) and Molly (Payton Lepinski, “Who Killed JonBenet?”). Her best friend is Theresa (Eva Longoria, TV’s “Decline and Fall”), who is also her boss at her pizza delivery job.

At her second job as a carpet cleaner, Kate is called to a massive yacht that has been forced to port in her small Oregon town. There, she encounters wealthy playboy Leonardo (Eugenio Derbez, “Geostorm”), a spoiled entitled jerk who ultimately refuses to pay her and sends her on her way in a manner most unbecoming.

But when he accidentally falls from the ship and washes up on the beach suffering from amnesia, Kate leaps to take advantage of the opportunity. At the urging of the kind-of-a-bad-influence Theresa, Kate shows up at the hospital to claim Leonardo as her husband, taking him home and basically setting him to work so that she can afford to take time to study for her upcoming exam.

She is only able to do this because Leonardo’s sister Magdalena (Cecilia Suarez, “The Kids are Back”) – sent by their dying billionaire father (Fernando Lujan, “The Kids are Back”) to bring Leonardo back to take over the company – leaves him in the hospital so that she might take over herself. Meanwhile, other sister Sofia (Mariana Trevino, TV’s “Club of Crows”) has her own feelings on the matter.

Leonardo – now just Leo – initially struggles with the working-class life into which Kate has thrust him, but he slowly starts connecting with this new world. He works construction alongside Theresa’s husband Bobby (Mel Rodriguez, TV’s “Last Man on Earth”) and a blue-collar crew that gradually accepts him. He cooks and cleans and works, all to make Kate’s life easier.

But for how long can a such a deception truly be maintained? And what will happen if and when the whole truth eventually comes out?

Right off the top, the problematic nature of the story needs to be addressed. It doesn’t take much for this whole scenario to feel REALLY dark. A woman taking a man into her home and claiming he is her husband under false pretenses, taking advantage of a brain injury? Yeah – you’d go to prison for that. And if the guy is the scion of a global-scale wealthy family? You’d go to, like, super prison or something.

However, this movie somehow still manages to be kind of charming. It’s probably due in part to my longstanding affection for the original film - I’m always going to love me some Hawn/Russell screwball comedy. The gender-swapped leads help a little as well. And while some might argue that the casting introduces some potential issues as far as racial dynamics, the truth is that this film feels as though it treats Hispanic culture in general with genuine respect.

And it’s actually pretty funny. The best ongoing through line involves telenovelas and parallel structuring and is surprisingly smart for a movie such as this one. The best joke, however, involves a phone call about a shark attack – you’ll know it when you see it.

The central pairing is the key here. Faris has always been a bit hit-or-miss for me; sometimes, her comic performances feel right on, while other times, she simply doesn’t resonate. She’s more the former than the latter here, although much of that likely springs from trying to keep up with Derbez, who is actually pretty fantastic. He tracks Leonardo’s journey with sharp clarity and earns our feelings toward him every step of the way. He’s compelling to watch. The pair’s chemistry is on-off, but Derbez carries the load when necessary.

The supporting cast shines. Longoria is having fun in a decidedly glammed-down role. Rodriguez and the rest of the construction crew are uniformly excellent, giving funny, easy performances. The three girls are good, even if they’re mostly plot devices/joke delivery systems. The Montenegro family members are fine, albeit underused. The guys on the crew of Leonardo’s yacht are low-key excellent. Oh, and Swoosie Kurtz is Kate’s mom and involved almost solely through a weird and largely unnecessary subplot involving her late-in-life pivot to musical theater.

“Overboard” isn’t a great movie, but it manages to keep itself afloat; I definitely enjoyed myself more than I anticipated. Despite the ickiness of the conceit, it manages to be a fairly innocent good time, weird as it sounds. It’s a movie likely destined for a fate not unlike its predecessor - a lengthy turn as a “nothing else is on” go-to.

[3 out of 5]

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