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'Overboard' generates some laughs, but generally treads water

'Overboard' generates some laughs, but generally treads water

The new "Overboard" is a showcase for Mexican comedy star Eugenio Derbez
'Overboard' generates some laughs, but generally treads water
Eugenio Derbez and Anna Faris star in the remake of "Overboard."
Photographer: Dyah Pera/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Many of the key components of the original “Overboard” walk the plank in the remake, which has been converted into a showcase for Mexican comedy star Eugenio Derbez.

The 1987 version starred Kurt Russell as a blue-collar handyman and widower doing boat repair for a wealthy snob (Goldie Hawn) who gets amnesia, prompting the handyman to invent a ruse that has her convinced she’s his put-upon wife.

The new version reverses the genders — Derbez plays Leonardo, arrogant playboy heir to a construction fortune. He insults Kate (Anna Faris), the cleaning woman who shows up to clean his yacht, then bumps his head, falls into the sea and washes up in her hometown.

He doesn’t remember anything, so the opportunistic Kate fills in the blanks — she claims him as her husband, assigning him to watch over her three daughters while she crams for the test that will allow her to become a nurse so her family can have a better life.

Leonardo is also forced to work a construction job — doing hard labor for a contractor (Mel Rodriguez) who’s installing a pool. The Mexican American work crew calls Leonardo “lady hands” and gives him the worst jobs, allowing Derbez room to display his talent for physical comedy.

At home he’s a househusband, adding a role-reversal angle to the gender switch. Leonardo can’t stand the bland American food in the fridge, so he starts to cook the fancy cuisine he knew as a billionaire, and Mr. Mom becomes a big hit with Kate’s daughters (he also teaches the girls to ride bikes, manage boyfriend problems, and play football).

The movie has been re-engineered to accommodate Derbez’s genial comic persona — his “Instructions Not Included” was a surprise $100 million hit, and the studio sees the opportunity here for similar cross-cultural success.

The movie is bilingual (the Spanish is subtitled), and devotes considerable time to a subplot that has Leonardo’s ambitious sister (Cecilia Suarez) manipulating their ailing father, to cut Leonardo out of the his inheritance. This subplot is ridiculous by design, and meant to complement the obsession that most of the movie’s characters have for the Telenovela soap operas that play in the background.

It all adds up to a bicultural comedy that is good-natured if not especially or consistently well-written. The movie takes too long to get moving, stays a tad too long, and efforts to retrofit the movie as a vehicle for Derbez come at the expense of Faris, a talented comedian who has very little to do here.

"Overboard" may be remembered, ultimately, as phase one of Derbez’s campaign to rehabilitate Speedy Gonzales — Leonardo wears a Speedy tattoo on his rump, and gives a speech about the virtues of the clever cartoon mouse.

It’s a key plot point in the movie, and possibly a product placement for Derbez’s dream project — an animated feature starring Speedy, who was once dropped by the Cartoon Network for fear of offending Mexicans.

As Derbez has noted, though, Speedy is highly popular in Mexico and among Mexican Americans, and some Latino advocates lobbied for his return. Apparently, Cartoon Network went a little overboard.

‘Overboard’

DIRECTOR: Rob Greenberg

STARRING: Eugenio Derbez, Anna Faris, Mel Rodriguez, Cecilia Suarez, Eva Longoria and John Hanna

RATED: PG-13

GRADE: C–

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
 

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