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AH, ’80s NOSTALGIA

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 4, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: I was not a great fan of the 1987 comedy ‘Overboard,’ and remaking it just seems like a bad idea from the get-go, but a 2018 redo opens in theaters this weekend. No reviews at this writing but I’m guessing they won’t be raves. Still, there is an audience that grew up in the ’80s and has fond memories of the original, so here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on Dec. 18, 1987.

“Overboard” is another screwball comedy throwback, the kind we used to see with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant (or insert the ’30s stars of your choice) where the uppity rich folks were pretentious, had funny servants and were eventually taught a lesson by the working-class people who invaded their midst. (See “The Philadelphia Story,” “Holiday,” “The Palm Beach Story,” etc.)

Actually, the plot here switches that around a bit by putting a spoiled socialite in the midst of a lower-class, blue-collar environment (similarly attempted earlier this year by “Maid to Order.”)

But “Overboard,” besides lacking the kind of sophisticated star power that could give it some much-needed comic punch, suffers from a contrived script with a story that seems a bit too cruel, potentially humorous supporting characters that are poorly developed and underused, and jokes that seem to fall flat at almost every turn.

     

Rich, spoiled Goldie Hawn has her feet massaged by Roddy McDowell in 'Overboard.' But ...

Oddly, the film lists Roddy McDowall, who plays the butler, of course, as executive producer. One would think he would better understand the concept. Even more odd is that this is directed by Garry Marshall, who shows none of the comic charm exhibited in “The Flamingo Kid” or “Nothing in Common.”

Goldie Hawn, who seems rather miscast, is the nasty rich woman who drives her husband (Edward Herrmann) and servants (led by McDowall) crazy with her frivolous and insulting demands to be pampered. They are traveling the world by yacht when a need for repairs forces them to dock off Oregon. To pass the time, Hawn sends for a local carpenter to expand her closet space.

Kurt Russell, as the carpenter, isn’t about to put up with her guff very long, however, and they get in a row about his work, which ends with Hawn flipping him over the side of the boat and throwing his tools after him. Russell vows revenge.

Later, Hawn falls overboard in the night and loses her memory. Her husband takes the opportunity to abandon her and Russell decides to get his revenge. He rescues her from the hospital and convinces her she is his wife and the mother of his four extremely rowdy sons.

     

... the tables are turned after Hawn gets amnesia and thinks she's married to blue-collar worker Kurt Russell.

Naturally, she turns into a reasonable human being, falling in love with Russell in the bargain. And just as naturally, Russell begins to fall in love with her and regrets what he has done.

This is sort of “My Man Godfrey” meets “With Six, You Get Eggroll,” and there are plenty of opportunities for slapstick and sharp one-liners. But “Overboard” passes up nearly all of them. Screenwriter Leslie Dixon, who struck gold with “Outrageous Fortune” earlier this year, just doesn’t give her story the pizzazz it needs to keep a full head of steam, much less give us any reason to feel that what Russell (and for that matter Herrmann) has done initially is anything other than cruel. And director Marshall is unable to spice it up.

Still, Hawn is charming, particularly when she gets off her high horse and begins to become a real mother to the children. And Russell, who goes shirtless through most of the movie, is also appealing. Everyone else in the film — from Herrmann to McDowall to Hawn’s mother, played by Katharine Helmond — comes off as cartoons.

“Overboard” is a disappointment, to be sure, but you’ll find a chuckle or two. And if you’re a big enough fan of the stars that may be enough.

It is rated PG for a brief sex scene, some partial nudity and scattered profanity and vulgarity.