In praise of ‘Overboard,’ the perfect ’80s movie

The other day while aimlessly meandering through cable, I came across a childhood movie staple for me, the 1987 Kurt Russell/Goldie Hahn classic Overboard. After taking that 100+ minute walk down memory lane (which I didn’t really have to take because, truthfully, it’s Xeroxed into my brain), I came to a major realization. In addition to being my favorite movie starring a real life couple and my favorite movie about glorified kidnapping leading to love, it’s pretty much the quintessential movie of that decade. The dream of the ’80s is alive in Oregon…Elk Cover, Oregon that is.

If you’re unfamiliar with Overboard’s premise, it’s about a blue-collar carpenter named Dean, played to flawless mulleted perfection by Russell, who is hired by a harsh heiress named Joanna, played by Hahn, to build a dream closet. The night after she literally kicks him off her yacht without pay, Joanna falls overboard and is lost at sea temporarily. None of her staff or even her husband seems to be phased at all by her absence, because as I stated before…she is a fairly terrible human. (I failed to mention that the master of rich blasé temperament, none other than, Edward Herrman, aka Grandpa Gilmore, plays her hubby. This factoid isn’t crucial to the story, but definitely worth mentioning.)

When she washes ashore, the fish out of water story truly begins (pun shamelessly intended. Dean the country boy, sees her on the news billed as the “the mystery woman who was found with amnesia” and decides to use her memory loss to his advantage. He lies to her and the officials and tells them Joanna is his wife and that her name is Annie. He then basically kidnaps her as a means of revenge for her rudeness and his lost wages. Dean takes her to his decidedly un-glamorous home in a Podunk Oregon town and forces her to do housework and raise his 4 children… then they fall in love. Indentured servitude leading to romance—tale as old as time, right?

I realize this sounds like a twisted tale of Stockholm syndrome and not the makings of a light romantic comedy, but hey-it was the 80’s! Anything went! In fact, around every corner was a different reason that Overboard is the best cinematic representation of the 80s.

Joanna’s Fashion Choices

Oh man. Where to start? Her rich bratty condescending character is the epitome of opulence (at least in that decade) and lives for matchy matchy over-the top accessories. I imagine Joanna has never met a floral fascinator or fur-trimmed stiletto that she doesn’t like. In fact, Dean’s carpentry project is to build her a closet shoe rack that would make Cher Horowitz weak in the knees. Even though this film was ripe with classic 80’s fads: overalls on dudes, perms and French cut bathing suits for days- all of Joanna’s rich girl duds were particularly insane in the best possible way. This lady wasn’t happy unless she was bedazzled. Bless costume designers everywhere.

Yachts everywhere

Maybe I just don’t hang in the right circles, but do wealthy people still care this much about yachts? (I’m not rich, but I do watch a lot of Real Housewives, so I feel like I should be privy to this kind of information.) I am sure there is likely a population of modern yacht enthusiasts, but the amount of focus put on her boat was hilarious to witness in the year 2015. At one point, Joanna is laying in bed in her yacht talking about leaving something out on the yacht deck whilst watching a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous episode all about yachts. It was a complete and utter Russian doll yacht situation.

Mini-golf goals 

In the movie, Dean’s big dream is to open his own mini golf course based on the Seven Wonders of the World. Albeit awesome, that is just about the most ’80s dream you could possibly have. Personally, I haven’t been mini golfing since the mid-90s. That doesn’t mean it’s not still a passable activity, it just is something one generally does for nostalgia’s sake. Today the purpose of mini golf courses are to remind you of a simpler time (the ’80s) or to be the site of millennial impromptu Instagram shoots.

Pee Wee Herman impressions

Before young boys became obsessed with doing Austin Powers or Borat voices all the livelong day, they did Pee-Wee Herman impressions like it was their day job; Dean’s youngest son is not immune. In fact, he speaks most of the time in that unmistakable inflection peppered with high-pitched laughs and “I know you are, but what am I”. That’s just not a thing you hear in the 2000’s and truthfully, it was kind of refreshing. Just hearing his catch phrases transported me back to elementary school.

After my reunion with this childhood favorite, I tried to fantasize about a 2015 Hollywood remake of Overboard starring spawn of Hahn, Kate Hudson (Oh my stars! Can you imagine!?). That thought was fleeting as I realized that it would be like reinventing a near perfect wheel. It’s clear that movie should remain in all it’s mini golfin’ sparkly glory…with Goldie and Kurt…in Elk Cove in 1987.

[All images courtesy Columbia Pictures]

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