BR: Overboard (1987)

September 24, 2021 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: Good

Label:  Severin Films

Region: A

Released:  August 24, 2021

Genre:  Comedy

Synopsis: A carpenter cons an amnesiac into believing she’s his wife to ‘work off’ a stiffed debt.

Special Features:  Interview with screenwriter Leslie Dixon (14:18) / Theatrical Trailer / Slip Cover.




What began in a pitch meeting during the apex of 1980s high concept studio productions evolved into an unsubtle homage to 1930s & 1940s screwball comedies, due in large part to a shared affinity for the iconic and beloved genre between MGM’s then production chief Alan Ladd Jr., and aspiring screenwriter Leslie Dixon.

As Dixon recalls in the interview featurette for Severin’s new Blu-ray and DVD editions, while her script for Outrageous Fortune (1987) was still under consideration at Touchstone / Disney, Overboard was quickly greenlit into production as a vehicle for power couple Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, who’d fallen in love while filming Swing Shift (1984).

Director Garry Marshall had safely hopped from TV (The Odd Couple, Laverne & Shirley) to feature films (The Flamingo Kid, Nothing in Common), and Dixon’s fleshed out premise was attractively ridiculous: when a rich & snooty heiress gets amnesia after tumbling off her yacht, she’s claimed by a local handyman who convinces her they’re married and have four bratty & unbridled sons – a ruse purely to work off the payment owed when she refused to pay for his crafting a set of shoe cabinets.

Now… a cruel socialite with amnesia + a rustic family led by a giddy sleazebag may not follow the more genteel scenarios of classic screwball comedies (The Awful Truth, My Favorite Wife, Monkey Business), but Dixon’s script features enough embarrassing experiences involving kids and a goofball dad that Overboard has oddly become a kind of family favorite among the kids who grew up with the film on home video, and fans taken by the genuine screen chemistry of its attractive stars, but there’s no denying Overboard has a perceptible degree of political impropriety, and cruelty: Dean Proffitt (Russell) has rich spoiled brat Joanna (Hawn) cleaning up barnacle-like grime in his decrepit house, cooking with inept results, and mothering kids wholly in on the mean ruse.

The montage-friendly mishaps are ideal for Hawn’s broad and nuanced comedic skills, but as Dean’s pal Billy (Mike Haggerty) opines early into the con, he’s also got a beautiful babe he can bed under the veil of an assumed marriage.

Dixon and Marshall temper the incorrectness of the inevitable bedroom consummation by making him a widower with some discretely held guidelines: humiliation via house chores, OK, since she refused to pay for work, and tossed Dean and his expensive tools into the bay; physical contact, however, is verboten… until he realizes she’s a good mom to his increasingly disciplined and respectful sons.

Joanna also develops principles, a sense of responsibility and empathy for others. She discovers Dean’s suspicious late night outings aren’t for bar cruising & bowling but midnight shift work to keep the family solvent. It’s inevitable the pair develop a genuine attraction, and it’s a progression that’s a little slower than Billy’s own gradual settling down with a local barmaid.

As only child / lonely child Joanna develops a moral spine and Dean reacquaints himself with guilt and honesty, her vapid, hedonistic husband Grant Stayton III (Edward Herrmann) becomes the central villain, having abandoned Joanna in the local hospital before Dean’s visit, and now canoodling and boozing on the high seas with babes.

Dixon’s finale is driven by the the confrontation of several interlinked truths, which in Grant’s case has him steering back to port when mother-in-law Edith Mintz (Katherine Helmond) demands to speak to her daughter in person after weeks (or months?) of lame excuses.

It’s a demented, lumpy scenario with an exceptionally schmaltzy finale – the re-enactment of an attempted watery reunion by two local folk heroes is cloying, and Grant’s comeuppance is broad, G-rated slapstick – but it’s the mean undercurrent that’s the film’s most lurid element, especially as it shifts from an enlightened Dean to Grant’s torment at sea.

Hawn also ensures Joanna doesn’t lose her dignity, and matures from a puzzled twit to a (sort of) assertive matriarch, and the changes the now-likeable amnesiac affects on Dean’s household probably force the faux husband to remember what life was like when his wife was alive.

At 112 minutes, Overboard is unusually long – there’s a sense material was shorn both in the writing and film editing stages to safeguard the comedy bits, keep the drama focused on Hawn, and reduce any tragic elements to soft subtext.

For example, Dean never brings up his late wife after telling the local school principal he’s a widower, and the kids never voice any memories of their mother. There’s also a sense Billy’s girlfriend may have had more lines in the writing stage, as in the final film edit she hovers in scenes that imply a character who may have offered the odd sharp critique, or had a heart-to-heart chat with Joanna about Dean’s past and potential future.

The schmaltzy finale is foreshadowed when Dean tells Joanna of the local folk heroes after the pair burn through a celebratory dance & dinner. In the wrap-up, the Proffitts’ race to port to ‘bring back mom,’ marking the film’s tonal shift from screwball comedy to family-oriented melodrama. It’s also the juncture where Alan Silvestri’s earworm thematic jig – spun verbatim far too many times by Marshall – switches from synth-pop to orchestral, accentuating Dean’s earnest actions towards rebuilding an adult relationship which sprung from a cruel prank.

In the final scene, Grant tumbles like a buffoon into the water, giving closure to the ship’s long-suffering crew and steward Andrew (Roddy McDowall, who also executive produced), and there’s a happy ending to Dean’s personal & financial struggles, and Joanna’s unenlightened, wealthy marriage of convenience.

So what about the lesser-known MGM-Lionsgate remake?

Perhaps exploiting the home video releases and TV airings of Dixon’s 1987 comedy, her script was updated for Mexican comedy star Eugenio Derbez (How to be a Latin Lover, Dora and the Lost City of Gold), likely as an easy vehicle to introduce the actor to American audiences while overhauling the original script’s very white characters. The end result is a film still clocking in at 112 minutes, but with some fascinating gender flips and cultural enrichment.

Dean the carpenter becomes Kate Sullivan (Anna Faris), pizza deliverer, cleaning lady, night school nursing student, and mother to three daughters. Joanna morphs into Leonardo Montenegro (Derbez), the elder foppish son entrusted to run the family cement business by his ill father, much to the ire of Leonardo’s two sisters: business whiz Magdalena (Cecilia Suárez), and cellist Sofia (Mariana Treviño).

Dean’s best buddy Billy is expanded into Kate’s pals Theresa (Eva Longoria) and husband Bobby (Mel Rodriguez), and McDowall’s steward remains a British male, played by John Hannah. There’s scant details offered on the father of Kate’s daughters, but unlike Dean, Kate gets a living, breathing parent – wacky retired mom and wannabe actress Grace (Swoosie Kurtz).

The significantly larger cast is nevertheless entwined in the would-be couple’s romance, and a good third of the dialogue is in Spanish, as scenes with the father and daughters occur primarily in Mexico.

For fans of the 1987 original, the 2018 remake is a bit surreal – bits of Dixon’s original scenes and dialogue are retained here and there, and there’s obvious updates to contemporary technologies – and although filmed in 2:39:1 ‘scope, the production is ultimately an amiable, inoffensive, PG-rated TV movie, with a pleasing light colour palette, an unimpressive score from Lyle Workman, and broad performances typical of sitcoms. The rapid dialogue, the actors’ heavy facial contortions, and brisk pacing is unsurprising, as director-writer Rob Greenberg (Frasier) and co-writer Bob Fisher (Married with Children) have years of sitcoms between them, and both collaborated on The Moodys (2019).

Severin’s DVD and Blu-ray releases of the original film are a marked improvement over the prior non-anamorphic MGM DVD, but the new 2K transfer does feature significant grain, which is markedly different from the older transfers on home video and TV broadcasts.

Extras include the theatrical trailer, a limited (and super-duper tight) slip cover (which should be removed carefully), and an interview featurette where Dixon recalls taking her screenwriting dream to the west coast, the luck she encountered soon after her arrival, and penning the drippy family classic Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), remakes of Freaky Friday (2003), The Heartbreak Kid (2007), as well as The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), the latter an exceptionally sleek and inventive update on the 1968 original.



© 2021 Mark R. Hasan





External References:
Editor’s Blog — IMDB: 1987 film / 2018 remake —  Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography

Vendor Search Links:

Amazon Canada —  Amazon USA —  Amazon UK



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Comments are closed.