The self absorbed and rich Joanna hires carpenter Dean Profitt. She is obnoxious and genuinely mean. But after an accident leaves her with amnesia, single parent Dean convinces her they are married and she is the mother to his four boys.
Wow. This sounds criminal and positively creepy. So why is Overboard remembered so fondly by people? Why is Dean a lovable scamp, rather than a disturbed monster for so many viewers? Weeeeeelll…
As one of those people who really does like this film, a whole lot of it is on the shoulders of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. They do the heavy lifting to make this palatable here. Joanna is purely unpleasant, but Hawn gives her a hint of humanity when, long after Proffitt has been left behind (without being paid for his work) she is bothered by his commentary on her life. Russell plays Dean as a guy who is clearly kind of lost and refuses to be a parent to his boys. He simply wants to be a pal.
The film acknowledges from the start that Dean’s deception is wrong. And in the beginning? Russell puts a lot of charm into his being selfish. But as time progresses, Joanna starts to adjust to her life and her belief that this is her family. She starts to stand up for the boys and push back.
The entire cast of the film is great, and there are some genuinely great moments between Hawn and Roddy McDowell who plays Joanna’s long suffering servant. Especially a scene where Joanna realizes how terrible she has treated him, and yet he has done nothing but work to meet her every need. Hawn is very convincing in her change as Joanna realizes she no longer feels at home in her own world. Upon her apology, McDowell (who has a look of genuine compassion for her in that moment) gives advice noting that she has had a very rare privilege to see life from a perspective beyond the one she was born to.
It is the performances that elevate the film above a creepy plot device. And it really is enjoyable. Hawn and Russell have a solid onscreen chemistry (no doubt due to their offscreen relationship) and both have real comedic chops that keep you focused on the characters rather than the situation. So why does a creepy premise not tank the film? Honestly? Um…just because…?