To be filed under “not great but more charming than anyone might expect,” Rob Greenberg’s “Overboard” offers a bilingual, generally serviceable remake of the 1987 Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell comedy of the same name.
Reversing idea of the original — she’s a struggling single parent, he’s a spoiled playboy — Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez (“How to Be a Latin Lover”) lack the instant chemistry of their predecessors, but a game ensemble of supporting players bring the silly story to surprisingly vibrant life after stumbling awkwardly through a preposterous convergence of circumstances required for its premise to feel remotely believable.
Faris plays Kate, an Oregon widower preparing to be a nurse; she supports her three daughters by delivering pizzas and working for a cleaning service. Leonardo (Derbez), the irresponsible heir to a construction supply empire, lives out Hugh Hefner fantasies aboard his $60 million yacht while his sister Magdalena (Cecilia Suarez) tries to wrest control of the family business. After refusing to pay Kate for scrubbing his boat of evidence of his latest bacchanal, Leonardo falls overboard and washes up on the shores of her small seaside town with no memory of who he is or where (or how much money) he comes from.
Frustrated at her ne’er-do-well brother, Magdalena pretends Leonardo is dead, leaving him in the hospital so she can claim their father’s company. Meanwhile, Kate discovers his plight when it’s reported in the local paper; she allows herself to be persuaded by best friend Theresa (Eva Longoria) to exact revenge on her pompous former employer by pretending Leonardo is her husband, enabling her to force him to cook, clean and tackle household chores while she’s busy studying.
With the help of her daughters and a community of friends and co-workers only too happy to lie for her, Kate convinces Leonardo to come home with her, and the two soon settle into an unexpectedly harmonious partnership as he begins to discover the meaning of real responsibility and to learn the value of a family bound together by love instead of money.
Greenberg’s background is mostly in sitcoms (“Scrubs,” “How I Met Your Mother”), which may account for how broadly and clumsily the set-up portion of this story is handled. Without quite needing to consult actual reality, one might think that Greenberg and his co-screenwriter Bob Fisher (working from Leslie Dixon’s original concept) might have updated, or at least refined, some of the foundational ideas that were scarcely convincing three decades ago. In fact, acknowledging the previous movie as inspiration for the characters in this one might have been a better way to justify what sounds by any definition like a wildly inappropriate criminal act, even if Kate’s gaslighting of Leo feels vaguely like a subversive gesture in the #MeToo era.
The problem is that Kate is written far too appealingly, and Faris is just too loveable to pull off the kind of grand manipulation that might have turned this rom-com scenario into an act of political vengeance. Fundamentally — and I mean this as a compliment — Faris lacks the righteous anger required for this long-suffering blue-collar worker and single parent to perpetuate the kind of deception into which she settles so easily.
Similarly, Derbez throws himself into playing an insufferable prick in the first act, but it takes little more than a scene or two for him to recognize the challenges of manual laborers who use his company’s products and to begin to respect the efforts of the people who actually have to prepare food and clean up after themselves and others.
That said, there is a truly magnetic couple in this film sidelined by all of this plot: Longoria’s Theresa and her husband Bobby, played by “Last Man on Earth” secret weapon Mel Rodriguez. Maybe it’s because they come to Kate’s aid so naturally, but they truly feel like a duo capable of the kind of manipulation required to yank a rich jerk out of his or her life and give him the kind of wake-up call to reality that would put him through ridiculous humiliating paces and make him grateful — and even fall in love — by the end of it.
Aside from casting the massively popular Mexican star Derbez, the movie additionally wears its multilingual intentions on its sleeve in multiple scenes where, delightfully, Leonardo’s family members speak to one another exclusively in subtitled Spanish, and later, his construction-worker colleagues make a few pointed jokes at the expense of the privileged white dudes who hire them to dig out their pools.
But even as a welcome offering to audiences from a broad variety of ethnic and economic backgrounds, “Overboard” ultimately feels like one of the dinners that Kate assigns Leo to cook for his newfound family — a good effort with a few new surprises to spice up a familiar dish, but nothing special enough to truly transform it into more than a routine meal.