By Richard Winters
My Rating: 1 out of 10
4-Word Review: Rich bitch loses memory.
Heiress Joanna (Goldie Hawn) is a wealthy and snobby woman who hires Dean (Kurt Russell), a carpenter, to remodel the closet that she has on her yacht. Since Dean is a widowed father of four boys (Mike Hagerty, Jared Rushton, Jeffrey Wiseman, Brian Price) he’s more than happy to take on the job in order to bring in extra money, but Joanna, treats Dean poorly, is unsatisfied with his work and refuses to pay him. She ends up throwing him overboard with his tools. Later that night while still on the yacht she goes on deck to retrieve a lost ear ring and falls overboard causing her to hit her head and lose her memory. She is rescued and taken to a local hospital. News shows report on the incident along with pictures of Joanna asking if anyone knows who she is. Dean, who is with friends at a bowling alley, sees the report and concocts a scheme to take advantage of her amnesia by pretending she is his wife and bringing her to his home to do chores and take care of his kids in order to repay her debt to him. The plan starts out seamlessly, but eventually she begins to bond with both the kids and Dean and then her real husband, Grant (Edward Herrmann) arrives at Dean’s residence in order to take her back with him.
Russell and Hawn began their real-life relationship while working on Swing Shift and wanted to do another picture together. This uninspired script, which was written by Leslie Dixon who had better success with Outrageous Fortune, is a misguided hybrid between Houseboat, a 50’s romantic comedy that starred Cary Grant and Sophia Loren, and Swept Away, a classic 70’s Italian film involving a rich, snotty woman stranded on an island with a working-class man. Unfortunately all nuance gets thrown overboard (pun intended) and we get left with the most extreme caricatures possible. While Hawn is certainly a fine actress her over-the-top character is too cliched and heavy-handed to be even remotely interesting or believable and the film falls hopelessly apart before it even gets going.
The basic premise is full of loopholes. The idea that just anyone could show up at a hospital and insist that some woman is his wife when that women shows no recollection of him and he’s able to bring her home without showing any type of documentation, marriage license, or photograph of the two together is beyond ridiculous. Just saying he recognizes a tattoo on her rear end wouldn’t be enough; maybe the two had a one-night-stand, but it wouldn’t be proof positive that he was married to her and yet for this hospital staff it was. Also, it’s very unlikely that Grant, Joanna’s real husband, would be able to get away with denying her existence as long as he does. He pretends he doesn’t recognize her when he goes to the hospital, so he can then bring young women onto his yacht to fool around with, but his friends and most certainly Joanna’s meddlesome mother, played by Katherine Helmond, would’ve seen the news reports too and gotten on him to go retrieve her, but for some reason in this movie rich people don’t watch the news only the poor folks.
Russell seems to enjoy his part, but like with Hawn his character is a tired caricature that’s not remotely original, or unique in any way. While the movie tries hard to get you to like him I still felt what he does with Joanna by tricking her into thinking she’s his wife was highly exploitive and not forgivable even when factoring in the poor way she had treated him.
The four boys are yet another issue. With the exception of the one who talks in Pee Wee Herman’s voice, which was apparently ad-libbed and not a part of the script, there was no distinction between any of them and they all could’ve been combined into just one. It’s also hard to believe that they’d all agree to play along with Dean and pretend she was their mother when they really knew she wasn’t as most kids are notorious for not be able to keep a secret. I was surprised too that the kids would all accept this new woman into their life and forget that their real mother ever even existed. These kids, or at least one of them, would’ve had some bonding with the real one and been reluctant to just let that go and welcome in her ‘replacement’. The kids were also used to having no rules and doing what they wanted while their dad was away at work, so having a new person come in out of nowhere and start enforcing discipline would most likely caused a rebellion instead of them all embracing this newfound orderly lifestyle.
Had the characters and comedy been more subtle like perhaps having the Hawn character not being a super rich heiress, but just a suburbanite living in a better part of town who has a slight disagreement with Russell when he comes to her house to do some work, then this idea might’ve had potential. However, as it is, the caricatures are too silly and overblown for any viewer with discernable tastes to get into. Also, for such slight and predictable material it takes way too damn long to play-out. Should’ve only been 80 minutes not almost 2-hours.
My Rating: 1 out of 10
Released: December 16, 1987
Runtime: 1-Hour, 52 Minutes
Director: Gary Marshall
Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video