Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Overboard: 1987 Vs. 2018

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OVERBOARD 1987 VS. 2018

Of the many films in existence, I would not have thought something as fluffy as Overboard would have received a remake, but a remake we got. The 2018 version keeps the basic structure of the 1987 original, down to keeping some of the exact same dialogue. The 2018 version also does a gender-swap with an ethnic twist.

Whether that helped or hurt the 2018 version remains to be seen.

In a nutshell, Overboard is the story of a wealthy (woman/man) who after having a job done on their yacht by a poor (man/woman), literally throws the poor person off the ship. Shortly after, the wealthy person her/himself falls off the yacht and suffers amnesia. The poor person, learning this, hoodwinks the wealthy person that they are the missing spouse. Hilarity and romance ensue.

2018 is not an exact copy of 1987 because it changes some key plot points. In 1987, Joanna Strayton (Goldie Hawn) was married to Grant (Edward Herrman), who promptly abandons Joanna in the psych ward to go off, as he puts it, 'whacking the donkey with painted ladies'. In 2018, Leonardo Montenegro (Eugenio Derbez) is a billionaire playboy (hence, no wife), who is abandoned in the psych ward by his sister Magdalena (Cecilia Suarez) so she, rather than the male heir, can run the company.

2018 also has a greater focus on the wealthy person's work life. In 1987, "Annie" was essentially a stay-at-home mom. In 2018, "Leo" was put to work on a construction site. While both were de facto slaves put in their positions to pay off their debt to their 'spouse', 2018 essentially gave the wealthy person double-duty: pulling a paycheck and doing domestic duties.

This leads to a reason why 1987 is better than 2018. As "Annie" is essentially secluded, no one has to ask questions and there's a lesser chance her true identity will be revealed. By keeping this in a tight-knit group, the duplicity can go unremarked. 2018 opted to put "Leo" among more people, thus running the risk of the deception being exposed. How no one: not his fellow day-laborers, the local community or even the wealthy people "Leo" was working for failed to recognize the son of the third-wealthiest man on Earth is a question that the film never answers.

It is within the realm of possibility that "Annie" could have remained hidden. It is beyond the realm of possibility that "Leo" could have remained hidden. Also, why did they not opt to change his name?

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2018 goes all-in on the gender-reversals. The gender-swap did not improve matters. Overboard 2018 may be remembered for a cinematic trend of its era. The 1980's were filled with various films where parents, usually fathers, switched bodies with their children, usually sons (Like Father, Like Son, Vice Versa, 18 Again!). Nowadays, we have remakes or films where its the genders that are swapped: the Ghostbusters reboot, What Men Want, Ocean's 8Doctor Who, a planned Splash remake with a merman, a planned Greatest American Hero remake with a Heroine, even a remake of Lord of the Flies with an all-female cast. That last one was one too many, the backlash so strong it died almost instantly. Overboard is there among them.

1987 was testosterone-driven: Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell) had four boys. 2018's Kate Sullivan (Anna Faris) had three daughters. The gender-swap is a stab at equality, but it leads to some very uncomfortable premises. A subplot in 2018 is Kate's fears of leaving her three daughters alone with their "father", a natural fear given "Leo" was a stranger to them. However, it does make one wonder why she would A) put her daughters in such 'danger' and B) why she would think a man bamboozled into thinking he was their "father" would commit unspeakable acts.

This fear does not exist in 1987. As "Annie's" interactions with the boys are purely on a motherly level, there's no suggestion at all that Dean would think she would be whacking their donkeys. Truth be told I didn't think 2018 would do so either, save for the fact that Kate keeps insisting her oldest teenage daughter stay at home rather than go to the local pool precisely because she is so afraid of what their "father" might do. This is brought up more than once, which ends up leaving a bizarre sense of indecency for what is supposed to be a romantic comedy.

Filmmakers today do not seem to understand that you just cannot change the gender of characters and get the exact same results. Men and women are different. As such, they would generally react differently to the same circumstances, not always but more often than not.

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2018 fails where 1987 for a variety of reasons. At the top of them is that 2018 is almost terrified to be even remotely nasty with its characters. Both Leonardo and Kate are essentially 'too nice' for the premise. 1987 set up the conflicting natures of Joanna and Dean: she was haughty, arrogant, condescending, snobbish and thoughtless. She did not so much go out of her way to be nasty as she was nasty to everyone. Her nasty manner is still evident when she's at the hospital, so much so that the long-suffering staff gives her a 'private room': the psychiatric ward.

As 1987 progresses, we see her slowly shifting into a nicer person who ends up embracing her 'old' life. She is adrift in this horrible world and much put-upon until one moment when she metaphorically strikes back. Once she stands up for herself, albeit in a mild way, she earns the respect of the others. That in turn allows for a balancing of power and for her to take command of her circumstances.

2018 on the other hand seems determined to make Leonardo into almost a pussycat. He's shown as cavorting with a bevy of beauties but that essentially is his only flaw. He is never overtly arrogant or vicious to his ship steward Colin (John Hannah) or to the Birthday Present crew. His reactions at the hospital are actually more sensible than 1987's: while her reactions are from the point of elitism and arrogance, his are more from frustration and confusion about not knowing who he was.

There's never a shifting of power because essentially he falls into line rather quickly. Moreover, Kate is almost too pleasant with "Leo". Unlike 1987, she never regales him with horror stories about his 'early' life. The worst thing 2018 does is make him sleep in a shed. 

2018, curious, did not make Kate the mild antagonist that 1987 was. Dean was the brains of the operation to where his best friend Billy (Michael Haggerty) was the one who told him Dean was bonkers for doing it before slowly going along with it. 2018 has the agency come from Kate's best friend Theresa (Eva Longoria). Kate essentially has to be pushed into this shady act.

By doing that, perhaps 2018 thought they were making her more sympathetic. What they ended up with was making her weaker. We can empathize with Dean because we have seen how nasty Joanna was to him, so we can see his plan as taking charge and getting revenge. We cannot empathize with Kate because it was not her idea. Also, again Leonardo was nowhere near as nasty to Kate as Joanna was with everyone.
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Another way 2018 goes wrong is in the love story. We get brief moments where Grant is shown as indulging himself away from his shrewish wife, making its case that Joanna, for all her faults, would be better off with Dean than with Grant. Whenever we see Grant "whacking the donkey with painted ladies", we see that he does not care for or about her, let alone love her. Dean, on the other hand, sees that "Annie" is becoming a better, kinder person who genuinely loves his kids and eventually him.

By making 2018 into a billionaire playboy, there is no actual antagonist for Kate to be going up against. There's no one to love Leo back on his yacht or his family, so the romance angle seems a bit askew. Far from taking Leonardo away from a bad situation, Kate seems to be helping Magdalena in her quest for control of the family business, albeit inadvertently.

This romantic angle also causes one of the biggest changes story-wise. In 1987, Dean thinks Joanna is giving up all her fortune for him only to learn the money is really hers, not Grant's. That gives us a nice twist and a genuinely happy ending: they both are in this out of true love. In 2018, a threat from his father makes Leonardo reconsider swimming back to the yacht. He does give up the family fortune, but then we get a second twist when we learn that the Birthday Present yacht was literally a birthday present and as such Leonardo's personal property. He gets a fortune anyway, and to me that strips 2018 of a sense of true sacrifice for love.

Curiously, while 1987's Joanna gleefully threw herself off the yacht to go to Dean (apparently giving up her fortune), Leonardo was actually hesitant to give up his fortune for the woman he supposedly loved. It might be because, again, men and women do think differently in similar circumstances. It might also be because 2018 wanted to change that aspect of the story, but then the tacked-on 'happy ending' of the yacht being his personal property versus his father's seems unnatural.

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Also, it seems strange that 2018 opted not to have Leonardo change all that much. A point in 1987 is that Joanna had changed to be a more thoughtful, caring and compassionate person. She for example opted not to return to smoking after not having done so when she was "Annie". Leonardo, on the other hand, goes back to drinking after he recovers his memory when before, he had been convinced by Kate that he was an alcoholic. He even attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting after a fight with Kate, a sign that Leonardo was becoming a better man.

They opted to cut this character development quickly. If 2018 had opted to keep him as sober, you would have seen his character become a man worthy of love and of loving. Instead, they went for a cheap laugh that didn't pay off.

I think finally on the romance angle, it helps that we the audience know that Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn have been in a long-term relationship, almost an in-joke we can participate in. There was no connection between Faris and Derbez. They often looked as if they weren't even in the same scene together, and truth be told I found the scenes where they were apart funnier than those when they were together. The fact that Derbez is 15 years older than Faris does not help.

Overboard 1987 is a frothy little film with a good heart and message: love is what makes you wealthy.  Overboard 2018 is just a waste of time.

Normally in these Comparisons, I match the characters up to see who would come out on top, but here I'm not going to bother. In every element the 1987 Overboard trumps the 2018 Overboard. I don't say either is great cinema, but the 1987 version is more enjoyable because it basically is in on the joke. The 2018 version does not know any.

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