I’m not sure the world has been clamoring for a remake of “Overboard,” the raucous 1987 Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell comedy. An offscreen couple since 1983, the stars got a working vacation together back then, and all we got was a kinda funny, kinda cringe-y farce in which Hawn’s rude heiress gets amnesia and blue-collar lug Russell convinces her she’s his wife, kidnapping her to help raise his sons and learn housework. (They fall in love, of course.)
How do you handle this material in the #MeToo era? That’s easy — reverse the genders. More to the point, why? The Garry Marshall original has picked up a scruffy little cult over three decades, but the real reason the new “Overboard” exists is as a Hollywood vehicle for Mexico’s Eugenio Derbez, a superstar of mostly Spanish-language comedies whose “Instructions Not Included” (2013) broke box office records on both sides of the border. The posters are selling this to Anglo audiences as an Anna Faris movie, but, trust me, it’s Derbez’s show.
As such, it’s an inane, absurd, fitfully amusing time-waster that ranks low on the believability scale and somewhere in the middle as mindless entertainment. Derbez plays Leonardo Montenegro, a pampered Mexican playboy who has never worked a day and who clashes with Kate Sullivan (Faris) when he docks his mega-yacht in Elk Cove, Ore., and she comes aboard as cleaning lady.
They fight cute, part ways, and when Leonardo falls off the boat and washes ashore with no memory, Kate is egged on by married best friends Theresa (Eva Longoria) and Bobby (Mel Rodriguez) to claim “Leo” and bring him home to look after her three daughters and cook dinner while Kate studies for her nursing degree.
Both stars are enthusiastic farceurs, which almost but not quite gets you past the essential stupidity/criminality of the setup. The rubber-faced Faris is mainly required to looked shocked, mad, or misty-eyed as Leo magically transforms into a perfect father and husband in less than a week. Derbez — who has a passing resemblance to Italy’s Giancarlo Giannini, highlighting the plot’s debt to Lina Wertmuller’s “Swept Away” (1974) — gets most of the slapstick pratfalls, and he’s good at them. Writer-directors Bob Fisher (“Wedding Crashers”) and Rob Greenberg keep the pace peppy and plastic.
With a healthy portion of the dialogue subtitled, “Overboard” feels mostly pitched at Spanish-speaking audiences and anyone else who wants to come along. Hired on as part of a Mexican construction crew, Leo bonds with characters named Burro (Omar Chaparro) and Burrito (Adrian Uribe) and learns the value of calluses and an honest day’s work. Meanwhile, his scheming sister, Magda (Cecilia Suárez, who’s fantastic), wants to take over the family business and would just as soon see her brother stay missing. At its very occasional best, “Overboard” rises to the level of a decent telenovela parody.
You still have to swallow an awful lot of codswallop to believe this tale, including the self-absorbed Leo’s sudden ability to cook like Ina Garten and provide romantic advice for Kate’s surly oldest daughter (Hannah Nordberg). And let’s not even get into the ethics of sleeping with a person you’ve brainwashed away from his real family — the movie certainly doesn’t.
As cross-cultural potlucks go, though, “Overboard” is harmless and maybe even a little welcome. To quote the Black Panther, “It is better to build bridges than walls.” Even a bridge this rickety is better than none.
Written and directed by Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg, based on a story by Leslie Dixon. Starring Anna Faris, Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria, Cecilia Suárez. At multiplexes in Boston, suburbs. 112 minutes. PG-13 (suggestive material, some partial nudity, and some language). In English and Spanish, with subtitles.Ty Burr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.