Overboard (1987)
Overboard (1987)

Genre: Romantic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.

Release Date: December 16th, 1987 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Garry Marshall Actors: Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Edward Herrmann, Katherine Helmond, Michael Hagerty, Roddy McDowall, Jared Rushton




rom Elk Cove, Oregon, carpenter Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell) is called to an emergency aboard Grant Stayton III’s (Edward Herrmann) luxury yacht. Joanna Stayton (Goldie Hawn) needs her closet remodeled to adequately hold her shoes and outfits – and it can’t wait. She’s uptight, hostile, prissy, and unappeasable, inventing things to complain about just to amuse herself. Two days later, she’s appalled to see that her new closet is manufactured out of oak instead of cedar – and demands that Dean change it. When he requests double the fee, she pushes him overboard and tosses his tools into the water right along with him.

Days later, Joanna accidentally falls off her ship and is brought to the hospital at Elk Cove and placed in the psychiatric ward with temporary but total amnesia. When Dean sees her picture on the news, he plots the ultimate revenge by picking her up and claiming she’s his wife. He even coaches his four young boys to go along with the ruse. He brings Joanna (calling her Annie) home to his filthy, rundown shack in the woods and manipulates her into cooking meals, chopping wood, packing lunches for the kids, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and coping with his promiscuity and drunkenness – but only for about a month until she’s “worked” off her debt to him for the prior carpentry job.

The plot is completely nonsensical and hopelessly implausible, but a nonetheless mirthful premise for Russell and Hawn to contentiously flirt. But it all seems to go too far. Her memory loss condition doesn’t resemble anything remotely realistic and Dean’s mistreatment of her knows no bounds. The inclusion of Joanna’s mother trying to track down her missing daughter, and Annie requiring proof of her familial status (their house is surprisingly devoid of marital memorabilia) brings a hint of reasonableness, though she resigns to her miserable fate a touch too easily. At least the lifestyle currently bothers her, even if Dean has her convinced that she was once satisfied. “My life is like death!”

The humorously uncomfortable situations (which run overlong in the first place) escalate to an inevitable, fantasy-shattering climax. It’s fairly commonplace in ‘80s comedies (along with the dated soundtrack, verbal innuendos, and montages) to design stories that can’t end believably, but this setup has a particularly nerve-wracking pace, dragging out the main predicament to unforgivable proportions – including spilling the truth to Annie without her believing it. Ultimately, “Overboard” is about the wrong person teaching Dean to be a responsible adult and proper father and, in turn, Dean teaching Joanna to be respectful, considerate, kind, and loving – even though he’s the incorrect man for that job as well. The culture clash of the overprivileged and the commoner is also prominent. But since the scheme continues well beyond the point at which it could be sensibly righted, Dean becomes the antagonist and the expected Hollywood ending seems deliriously farfetched. At least, Russell and Hawn are a great onscreen couple.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10