Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Some might even call it a beautiful thing, but when it comes to 1980s romcoms, there’s plenty of cringe-worthy self-reflection to be had. That is, after one realizes they were cool with some problematic cinematic happenings that would never fly today. In this spirit, Molly Ringwald recently revisited John Hughes movies through a #MeToo lens that isn’t entirely kind in retrospect. Those, however, were beloved films remembered warmly by those who grew up identifying with at least one member of The Breakfast Club. Yet what of something entirely fluffy and void of coming-of-age redemption, like, say, 1987’s Overboard, which has now received the remake treatment?
Let’s first dispense with the most obvious question, which has been asked a lot already, of relevance: Did the world really need an Overboard remake? No, of course not, but people do recall it somewhat fondly, which is why Lionsgate gambled on Anna Faris starring in the new version in theaters. Tellingly, the film was dropped into the weekend following Avengers: Infinity War, so no one ever expected this movie to be a huge money-maker at the box office, although it might rake in some cash on home video. And Faris, like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, possesses enough charisma to justify her onscreen presence most of the time. The original film reaped such benefits despite, well, a revolting plot.
To briefly recap, Russell’s character, Dean — who is upset about being stiffed on a carpentry contract — kidnaps, enslaves, and has sex with an amnesiac, Joanna/Annie, under false pretenses (while saying “every time with you is like the first time”) after convincing her that she is his wife. Not that this sort of thing was out of the ordinary back in the day. After all, the romantic hero of Sixteen Candles fervently pursued panties belonging to the girl of his dreams by trading his unconscious girlfriend to the Geek, so a common theme prevails.
Yet Dean was never jailed, or even accused of illegal behavior, after Annie is finally claimed by her true
owner husband. Instead, all misdeeds are spun as a positive because they resulted in Hawn’s character becoming a nicer person, who apologizes for being such a “rich bitch” to her help. And later, the script sees her return to her abductor (and, some shall say, her rapist), who not only gets the girl, but he also ends up rolling in her dough (for life, presumably). Yet she is thrilled to now have a husband for whom she doesn’t have to pretend to be on her “period every week” to avoid sex.
Win, win? Not in 2018.
Lookit — director Garry Marshall’s starring vehicle for Russell and Hawn was never meant to be taken as high art. Likewise, none of the characters possess any redeeming qualities, so it’s hard to expect much (or undertake any lengthy analysis) regarding a thin romantic comedy in which Kurt Russell first appears while wielding a chainsaw as banjo music plays. People enjoyed the movie, and they still do, as a cable rerun on a lazy weekend afternoon, but nobody was out there claiming that the film resonated so deeply within their souls that they’d like to see these characters revisited. Indeed, the film is rather appalling to view through contemporary lenses, and that cannot be ignored.
As such, the remake’s gender-swap on the plot — the male lead is billed as a “spoiled playboy,” while his female counterpart remains a working-class single parent — is probably a means to soften the blow. After all, the general public is still more accepting of seeing a man suffer “consequences” after treating a woman terribly than vice versa. In interviews, both Faris and co-star Eugenio Derbez appear delighted with the end result, which Faris describes as a “feel good” reimagining, and Derbez has played up how the remake pulls in “race and class and language and gender,” so as not simply clone the original.
So clearly, Lionsgate made an effort to move past (or at least distract from) some of the ickier aspects of the Hawn/Russell incarnation, although audiences (if they’re not rewatching Infinity War) will be the ultimate jury of whether the remake is really as “sweet” as the New York Times suggests. Perhaps this effort can escape being another case of folks wondering why, as with the recent Eli Roth Death Wish remake, there was a reason to bring this story back to life onscreen if the spirit of the original no longer flies in a cultural context.
Or maybe, finally, lukewarm reception to an Overboard remake can inspire studios to remember 1980s popcorn fare as it largely existed — a rather messy, neon-spray-painted dumpster fire where race, gender, and violence are treated as lighthearted punchlines. And perhaps they’ll realize that not every financial success from decades past should be remade or rebooted.
It’s also important to acknowledge that few who grew up on ’80s dumpster fire movies are immune to harboring fuzzy feelings for them. For example, Commando acted as a virtual babysitter for some parents, thanks to HBO’s daily rotation of Schwarzenegger flicks and the fact that live-action violence was embraced in a comic-book manner at the time. The film still qualifies as one hell of a guilty pleasure, but of course, it would also be disastrous to remake, considering that Arnold singlehandedly takes out an entire army within a few minutes (without reloading). Well, let’s not give Hollywood ideas to reformat that one.