In Overboard, Kate (Anna Faris), a mother of three who is working two jobs in order to support her family and pay her way through nursing school, is hired to clean the yacht of a spoiled, wealthy man who has never worked a day in his life. The man is Leonardo (Eugenio Derbez), and he is about to take over his ailing father’s business.
That is, until he suffers amnesia after falling off the boat. He wakes up in an Oregon hospital unable to remember any detail about his life. His sister (Cecilia Suarez), who wants the family business for herself, leaves him to rot and convinces the family that he died at sea.
This gives Kate enough room to swoop in and exact revenge on Leonardo for treating her poorly and ultimately costing her her job at the cleaning company. She convinces Leo that they are married and puts him to work, both around the house and on a construction site.
What follows is a handful of fish-out-of-water shenanigans and the formation of some “unlikely” emotional bonds.
As far as the shenanigans go, the film struggles to have anything overtly humorous on display. The first thing I found humorous was not even a scripted joke, but the name of Leonardo’s boat: “Birthday Present.” I first noticed the name on a life preserver during the scene where Kate and Leo first meet. That I was focusing on life preservers in the background and not the dialogue that the characters are delivering in the first pivotal scene in the film is telling.
It isn’t that everything in the movie is tone deaf in a comedic sense. There are things that could play better for laughs in a different movie. Most of these things have nothing to do with the central conceit of the film, such as Leo’s time working on the construction site. In particular, the manager of the construction company, Bobby (Mel Rodriguez), is the funniest character in the film.
But these aspects of the film are funny explicitly because they are not involved in the backwards, ill-conceived premise. The high concept idea of the amnesia could be used for laughs.
But none of it is convincing. For one, a man with total retrograde amnesia would not be surprised to learn that his life is actually quite normal, yet Leo is dumbfounded to learn that he even has a job. Then there is the contrivance that Leo learns to live a humbled life and thus becomes a good guy that Kate could actually see herself falling for.
Not only does the chemistry between the two leads in this case fail miserably, but neither of these characters are ever particularly likeable. Why, then, would we as an audience care if they fall for each other or not? Sure, Leo is a childishly rude guy who turns into someone with a new, positive view on life. There is room there to learn to like him.
But Kate is a sympathetic character who turns into something of a monster. We are asked to align ourselves with her, because we see her struggling early on and getting bullied by Leo. But his comeuppance doesn’t really fit his crime. It makes for a good logline, but on screen it makes Kate look villainous. Not to mention that seeing her convince her kids to go along with the scam just feels slimy.
Without the chemistry, and with the plot depicting a bad person manipulating a bad person, it is an endlessly uphill battle to get on the side of Overboard. As the emotions get more severe between the characters, it feels like a contrivance, because it is already a hard sell to buy the basic premise. Perhaps if the jokes were more powerful, this would eclipse the unbelievable emotional arc. But that just isn’t the case.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)