Somebody throw Judge Patrick Bromley a life jacket.
"I don't belong here. I feel it. Don't you think I feel it? I can't do any of these vile things and I wouldn't want to. Oh, my life is like death. My children are the spawn of Satan, and you're the Devil."
You've got to give it to director Garry Marshall: the man knows how to make potentially reprehensible material pretty darn palatable. This is guy who made a movie about a hooker and a john into one of the best romantic comedies of the 1990s. Then there's Overboard, newly released on Blu-ray, a movie about an immature jerk who kidnaps an amnesiac woman and makes her his slave for weeks, forcing her to cook, clean and raise his children. He even sleeps with her, which she goes along with because she thinks they are married. On paper, it's a disgusting premise for a movie. And, yet, in the hands of Garry Marshall (in the late '80s, before he became the absolute worst), it's all kind of charming and fun. I guess he just has that effect on otherwise icky subject matter.
The immature jerk is Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell, Death Proof), a blue collar carpenter hired to build a closet on the yacht of spoiled heiress Joanna Stayton (Goldie Hawn, Bird on a Wire). When she doesn't like the work he does (everyone knows closets are made of cedar, not oak), she fires him without paying him what he is owed. Shortly thereafter, Joanna falls off the yacht into the ocean and washes up on shore unable to remember who she is or anything about her life. Seeing an opportunity to take revenge and get something for what he is owed, Dean goes down to the police station and says he is her husband. From there, Joanna Stayton is reborn as Annie Proffitt, wife of Dean and mother of four energetic boys. As "Annie" is forced to learn how to cook, clean and parent, she and Dean actually do grow closer until they—would you believe it?—fall in love.
Aside from the two lead performances and a few colorful supporting roles, there is very little that's at all remarkable about Overboard. While the movie represents an honest attempt at doing a '30s-inspired screwball comedy for a 1980s audience, director Marshall is never able to muster the pacing or energy required to really make that work. He'd much rather be obvious and broad but unendingly pleasant, and that's precisely what Overboard is. Despite a rather mean-spirited premise, it's kind of sweet and difficult to dislike, primarily thanks to Russell and Hawn (hard to believe that this movie is one of only two in which they act together on screen; the first was 1984's Swing Shift), who have great chemistry together (not many real-life couples do). More than chemistry, though, the pair appears to be having fun together, and that's a hard thing to fake. Roddy McDowell, who plays Joanna's long-suffering butler, is mostly wasted in a part that barely allows him to speak, but just having him on screen in such a role classes the movie up a bit. Better is Edward Herrmann (Gilmore Girls), who has always been good at playing blueblood types but outdoes himself here—he's a giant, rich, bratty Baby Huey, and the pitch and tone of his performance is what Overboard needs more of.
The Blu-ray of Overboard is kind of a mess. The 1.85:1 image is presented in full 1080p HD, but is so covered in grain and noise that it's tough to make out any fine detail. If you can see past that, the image remains rather soft and hazy (more or a source issue than a transfer one), with washed out colors that never really pop—the whole picture looks flat and two-dimensional throughout. Only a stereo audio track is made available, and while it is a lossless DTS-HD track, audiophiles may be disappointed by the lack of a full 5.1 surround mix. Of course, audiophiles may not be looking to Overboard for reference material. It's a fine track, with clear dialogue and balanced music throughout, and gets the job done but not much else. The only bonus feature included is the movie's original theatrical trailer.
It's hard to recommend Overboard on Blu-ray—especially to those who have never seen it—even though it's a totally enjoyable diversion. The disc is a letdown, and the movie itself is so slight and minor that, unless you have some fondness for it built from its days as a cable TV staple, it's not necessarily something you need to seek out. It's nice to see Hawn and Russell together on screen, and it's actually one of the last movies Garry Marshall made before becoming aggressively saccharine and mediocre. He was still making movies that were just pleasantly average. Who knew that would be something to long for?
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