It is, I think, close to being an outright objective truth that insofar as the 1987 cult object Overboard works, it works entirely because Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have off-the-charts adorable chemistry together, owing in large part to their being a real-life couple. It certainly does not work because of the scenario, which is actively unpleasant, or because of what is done with that scenario which is middling romantic comedy boilerplate. How very exciting it is to have a chance to directly test this thesis, because now we have a new Overboard, which makes many predominately cosmetic changes to the material but leaves all of the beats and even a couple of the jokes intact, only it has replaced Hawn and Russell with Eugenio Derbez and Anna Faris (one of the less cosmetic of the cosmetic changes is that it's been gender-swapped, without which it's completely impossible to imagine it having survived to be released in the cultural climate of 2018). Whatever charms Derbez and Faris might have separately (he's an enormous comedy star on both sides of the camera in Mexican cinema; she has spent most of her career as a favorite of critics who make a fetish obvious of bemoaning the terrible vehicles she keeps getting stuck in*), they have no spark between them, no sense that they are remotely interested in being anything other than cordial co-workers doing the best they can to get through a tepid slapstick romcom with a screenplay that feels like the final draft was written by the folks in marketing.

The situation is basically the same as it was in '87 (and one of the film's most annoying lines of dialogue calls attention to that fact): Leonardo Montenegro (Derbez) is a spoiled rich asshole who has been obliged to park his yacht off the shore of Elk Cove, Oregon, where widowed Kate Sullivan (Faris) is attempting to make ends meet while raising her three daughters. One of Kate's jobs, as a carpet cleaner, puts her on Leonardo's yacht, where he belittles and insults her, and finally pushes her overboard without paying her for her work. That night, he falls overboard himself, on a hunt for spare condoms, and he washes ashore the next morning with no memory at all, only an entitled attitude. Kate, goaded by her boss and apparently sole friend Theresa (Eva Longoria), pretends to be Leonardo's wife, and proceeds to force him to work and keep house while she devotes every spare minute to studying for a crucial nursing exam. After a few angry days, Leo finds that he quite likes the situation, and of course he and Kate fall in love.

First things first: this film gets the little things wrong, and that's just no good. Leonardo is a wretched SOB who clearly doesn't think twice about the women he fucks: so the big plot-establishing moment is that he's desperately looking for condoms? I don't buy it. Second: the grinding mechanics of the plot (Bob Fisher and director Rob Greenberg are credited with polishing up Leslie Dixon's original script) became way the hell more obvious when Goldie Hawn working overtime to flesh out her character with plausible small-scale emotions and reactions has been replaced by Derbez's aimless clowning around, never amounting to more than second-tier slapstick (he accidentally flips in the air while pushing a wheelbarrow, ho-ho-ho), and without the warm center of all the great slapstick artists. He's too rubbery and harmless to convincingly sell the pre-amnesia Leonardo as a callous lothario (and the film certainly pulls its punches on making him as actively rancid as Hawn was in the original), too emptily manic to persuade as the lovable surrogate dad he has to become. To say nothing of Faris, who's at her most abject in a role that emanates I-don't-want-to-be-here flatness like a choking sulfur cloud. Derbez isn't any good, but at least he doesn't look miserable (Derbez also produced the movie, so he probably believed in it at least a little more than his co-star.

Outside of the complete void in the middle, Overboard is actually somewhat of an improvement on the original. It lacks the bizarrely clumsy editing, and it has a much more believable bench of supporting characters, including the chipper Theresa and her comfy marriage to Bobby (Mel Rodriguez), a trio of girls who are much more specific and interesting characters than the ciphers Kurt Russell had to deal with in the 1987 film, a mildly quirky group of laborers at the construction job Bobby gets for Leonardo. Best of all is Leonardo's family, including his nasty, dying father (Fernandi LujΓ‘n), his soft-hearted, music-loving sister Sofia (Mariana TreviΓ±o), and his grim, stern other sister Magdalena (Cecilia SuΓ‘rez), filling the role Edward Herrmann played in the original. The Montenegros form a fine little plot in their own right, a straight-faced parody of telenovelas that's only somewhat ruined by having a character make this exact comparison in dialogue.

It's charming and harmless, then, except for the gaping hole where its two leads' romantic attraction is meant to be. In a plot about kidnapping, lying, and psychologial manipulation, that romantic attraction is really super important, or we're just invited to think about how horrible these people are. And Faris's lifeless performance doesn't do a damn thing to obviate Kate's criminal actions, not the way that Russell could just barely paper over the same problem in the original with his boyish, post-Disney "golly gosh, me, a sociopath?" charisma. If anything, it accentuates that problem.

Still and all, it's mostly harmless tosh, with big, simple, family-friendly gags that are too mild to be amusing but also too mild be objectionable. Some of them are, to be sure, irritatingly overwritten, like when Leonardo explains why he has a Speed Gonzales tattoo on his ass for what feels like 20 minutes of screentime. Almost all of them announce themselves so far in advance that you have a chance to process the joke and forget it before it has even been delivered. So whatever, it's just snoozy, light fare, without a single inspired moment. For a film that hinges on Stockholm syndrome to be this totally, overwhelmingly anodyne, something had to go... right? Wrong? I don't know, but the movie exists, anyway.



*Not that I can think of any such people.