“Crazy things happen all the time,” a character announces early on in this adequate and amiable “Overboard” remake, setting the stage for the ripped-from-the-telenovela drama to come. But beleaguered Kate (Anna Faris) doesn’t have much time to think about the crazy things; she’s got two crappy jobs and lives in a busted cottage, where she tries to keep three young daughters on the straight and narrow. This gender-swapped take on the 1987 comedy starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell places the always-charming Faris in the role of middling blue-collar worker, the first switch (of many) in a modernized remake that struggles to stand out.
First-time feature director Rob Greenberg wrote the script with Bob Fisher (“Wedding Crashers”) and it’s set in the same location as the original — Elk Cove, Ore., which spawns at least one tongue-in-cheek joke about the first film, plus a “Jaws” gag for some reason. It hews to the original, complete with a bloated runtime and a hell of a lot of exposition. When Kate’s dispatched to clean the champagne out of the carpets of some wealthy dude’s yacht — the height of rich-people problems — it seems like just another crappy experience in another crappy day. It’s about to get so much worse: The dude in question is douchebag billionaire playboy Leonardo Montenegro (beloved Mexican star Eugenio Derbez, star of last year’s crossover hit “How to Be a Latin Lover”).
Impulsive and spoiled, Leo fires anyone who looks at him sideways. An argument about payment turns into a full-blown disaster once Leo chucks Kate and her expensive carpet cleaning machine off the yacht, merrily sailing away as Kate almost drowns. But karmic retribution is at the center of both “Overboard” films, and a drunken late-night dalliance soon leads to Leonardo tumbling straight off his million-dollar yacht, into the water, and washing up on the shores of Elk Cove. And, yes, he’s got amnesia, as soapy an ailment as anyone could possibly ask for.
The “Overboard” films (are we now living in an “Overboard” universe?), despite their sheen of light-hearted humor, grapple with one big problem: How do you turn a terrible crime into something cute enough to spawn both romance and comedy? Like its predecessor, Fisher and Greenberg’s film almost nails it, thanks to Faris’ charming performance as the struggling Kate and Derbez’s interpretation of Leo as a jerk who just needs a good kick in the pants. Once Kate and her best friend Theresa (Eva Longoria) discover that a single man with no memory of his life is making lives miserable at the local hospital, they hatch a plan to convince Leonardo that he’s Kate’s devoted spouse, turning him into the house-husband of her dreams.
While Faris and Derbez can’t generate a fraction of the heat in Hawn and Russell’s original, their cobbled-together family unit is charming and Leonardo’s steady evolution into a focused family man contains real emotional stakes. Derbez’s game-for-anything attitude shines through, as Leonardo huffs through indignity after indignity. His rich family emerges with their own amusing storylines, focused on his ailing father (Fernando Luján) and his dueling sisters (Cecilia Suárez and Mariana Treviño), which adds a bilingual element to the affair, the kind of thing Hollywood overlooks.
Faris and Derbez are both skilled comedians, never afraid to get physical and always down for a big gag, but “Overboard” doesn’t craft enough comedic setpieces to propel it through its nearly two-hour running time. The dialogue is occasionally wooden and doesn’t trust what’s already been telegraphed by the film itself — early on, Kate sputters out chestnuts like, “I hate rich people!” (We know.) Hammy jokes fall flat and that bloated run time sags in the middle, weighing down would-be snappy humor. It should all pop, but “Overboard” settles for a low crackle.
Still, it’s a wholly adequate spin on the dying romantic-comedy genre, and both Faris and Derbez come out looking like champs. Hollywood loves nothing more than a remake or a reboot or prequel (the monikers go on and on) with a twist, and while “Overboard” is far less subversive than other remakes of its ilk, it’s refreshing to see at least one old story that still has some sea legs. Next time, perhaps some original material might push the pair to greater heights and bigger laughs. Crazier things have happened.
“Overboard” hits theaters on Friday, May 4.