‘Overboard’ the ideal showcase for Eugenio Derbez’s charms
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“Overboard” is the second vehicle designed to make Eugenio Derbez a star with non-Hispanic viewers in the United States. And like last year’s “How to Be a Latin Lover,” Derbez is the funniest thing in the movie.
A superstar in Mexico, Derbez struck box office gold in the States with the sentimental 2013 comedy “Instructions Not Included.” He is a distinctive, endearing performer who can be broadly funny but rarely cartoonish. Even when faced with absurd situations, his characters maintain their humanity.
That quality comes in handy in “Overboard,” which is teeming with absurdity. That’s no surprise: The film is a remake of the 1987 film of the same name, which featured Goldie Hawn as a rich woman struck with amnesia, and Kurt Russell as a carpenter who tricks her into believing she’s his wife so she can serve as mom to his four children.
Now viewed through a #MeToo-era lens, it’s an awfully mean-spirited premise to hang a breezy rom-com on, so the filmmakers (including co-producer Derbez) wisely flip the characters’ genders. The actor plays Leonardo, a playboy manchild who is the only son of the third richest man in the world. He is vain, perpetually hungover and completely oblivious to the lives of others. When one of his employees tries to explain something, he brushes it off: “I don’t need to know how the sausage is made,” he snaps.
Enter Kate (Anna Faris), a good-hearted single mom to three young daughters. She is attending school to become a nurse and juggling jobs delivering pizza and cleaning carpets. She shows up on Leonardo’s massive yacht to perform the latter duty. They flirt — “You’re very attractive for a carpet-cleaning lady,” Leonardo offers — then fight after Kate won’t fetch him a mango. Leonardo petulantly retaliates by throwing her equipment overboard, which means Kate now owes her employer $3,000.
Things look up for Kate when Leonardo falls overboard and winds up at a hospital with amnesia. This makes the TV news, and Kate’s best pal (Eva Longoria) hatches a plan: Kate will pretend he’s her husband, which gives her an instant babysitter and cook so she can study for exams. It’s still a really mean premise, but maybe it’s a little more benevolent this time around; she wants to be a nurse, after all.
The film’s funniest moments come as Leonardo adjusts to his new lifestyle, manipulated by Kate. He is suddenly the owner of several Seattle Seahawks T-shirts — he wonders about the origin of the green and blue birds — and has a hard time adapting to a life of labor. Kate convinces him he has a drinking problem, so he starts attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and espousing 12-step philosophies: “You need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude,” he proclaims.
Derbez is hilarious in these scenes, imbuing Leonardo with both whimsy and heart. He’s nicely paired with Faris, although her character is more grounded in reality. That means she essentially plays straight man while he gets the best lines and the laughs.
If the film feels a bit overstuffed (we learn way more about Leonardo’s family in Mexico than we need to know), it still moves forward pleasantly enough. Director Rob Greenberg doesn’t do anything particularly clever or inspired but displays a knack for snappy dialogue and draws solid work from the cast. It’s enjoyable watching Leonardo and Kate draw closer together, and the film’s emotional moments strike the right notes.
The filmmakers also include some nice inside touches that hark back to the original movie to please fans. Still, expect Derbez’s followers to be the most pleased. They should eat this showcase up.
MGM Pictures and Pantelion Films present a film written and directed by Rob Greenberg and written by Greenberg, Bob Fisher and Leslie Dixon. Rated PG-13 (for suggestive material, partial nudity and some language). Running time: 112 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.