Critics' Corner
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Rita Kempley - Style section, "It's sorely without magic."

Suzanne Tobin - Style section, "Cliche-laden plot."


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'Mrs. Winterbourne'

On a train to Boston, pregnant, penniless Connie Doyle meets up with Grace Winterbourne's son and pregnant wife, who lets her try on her wedding band just moments before the train crashes. Survivor Connie wakes up in a private hospital with a healthy baby boy, and a new identity as Mrs. Patricia Winterbourne, Grace's daughter-in-law.

She's a good girl, and she tries to explain, but when she is whisked away to the Winterbourne manse and given a royal welcome, she decides to go along with the pretense. It turns out that the dead son has an identical twin brother, who discovers she's an impostor, but falls in love with her anyway.

There's just one problem: the baby's real father, a petty thief and con artist, threatens to reveal her true identity, unless she goes along with his scheme to fleece the Winterbournes.
-- Suzanne Tobin Rated PG-13


Director: Richard Benjamin
Cast: Ricki Lake; Shirley MacLaine;
Loren Dean; Brendan Fraser
Running Time: 2 hours
Filmography: Shirley MacLaine






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'Mrs. Winterbourne': Missing Cinderella

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 19, 1996

Ricki Lake makes an appealing, though unlikely, fairy tale heroine in the derivative romance "Mrs. Winterbourne": If only this stale trifle didn't call for the bewitching or pixilating, for the abracadabra of a Bullock or a Pfeiffer. For a Cinderella story, it's sorely without magic.

The third remake of Cornell Woolrich's vintage melodrama "I Married a Dead Man," the movie, directed by Richard Benjamin, is supposed to be fresh and funny this time around. But former TV writers Phoef Sutton ("Cheers") and Lisa-Maria Radano ("The Tracey Ullman Show") have delivered a mawkish marriage of "While You Were Sleeping" and the recent remake "Sabrina."

The story centers on the misadventures of Connie Doyle (Lake), a character who would be right at home guesting on the star's own TV talk show. Homeless, penniless and pregnant by her abusive lover (Loren Dean), the 18-year-old is mistaken for the widow of a Massachusetts playboy who dies with his pregnant wife in a train wreck.

Although Connie tries to set the record straight, Grace Winterbourne (Shirley MacLaine) obviously needs to believe that Connie is her late son Hugh's wife and that Connie's infant baby is her grandson. Hugh's identical twin, Bill (Brendan Fraser), however, catches the disagreeable scent of trailer-park trash.

A conservative banker, Bill stayed home to run the family banking business while Hugh saw the world. He turns his resentment for his late brother against Connie and her baby, but Connie wins him over after Grace takes her to Boston for a make-over. Apparently, she wasn't so lucky when it came to costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge, who seems to think of herself here as Christo and Lake as the Reichstag. It's as if she'd mistaken Cinderella for the pumpkin.

Lake is blessed with genuine warmth and compassion-qualities perfectly suited to off-leads and talk show hostesses. Many a man would find her easy to love, but that's beside the point. Romantic comedies are amorous steeplechases: They're supposed to present the potential happily-ever-afterers with plenty of obstacles. Although he makes several snotty remarks, Bill isn't much of a challenge. Dogs take longer to fall in love.

The greater problem is the heroine's character. Connie may only be trying to cheer up the grieving Grace Winterbourne, but she is, after all, a fraud. And even Bill's initial snobbishness doesn't excuse Connie's ongoing charade, which is especially threatening to Grace, who is in ill health.

MacLaine draws most of the film's laughs as the still willful matriarch-a softer variation of the mother she played in "Terms of Endearment." Seemingly the hardest-working member of the cast, despite her fluttery ticker, she even belts out a show tune at a garden party. Fraser, like a male dancer in a particularly one-sided pas de deux, has a limited and thankless role: He doesn't drop the girl. And he looks good not doing it, too.

Mrs. Winterbourne is rated PG-13 for language.

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Lake Goes From TV Talk to B Movie

By Suzanne Tobin
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 19, 1996

In this case of mistaken identity, Ricki Lake's career takes a dubious step from trashy TV talk show to B movie.

As Mrs. Grace Winterbourne, a mother-in-law with a heart of gold and a bank book to match, Shirley MacLaine tries to bring class to the cliche-laden plot. But if she truly believes in reincarnation, she needs to prepare for several lives of penance for this disaster.

On a train to Boston, pregnant, penniless Connie Doyle (Lake) meets up with MacLaine's son (Brendan Fraser) and pregnant wife, who lets her try on her wedding band just moments before the train crashes. Survivor Lake wakes up in a private hospital with a healthy baby boy, and a new identity as Mrs. Patricia Winterbourne, Maclaine's daughter-in-law.

She's a good girl, and she tries to explain, but when she is whisked away to the Winterbourne manse and given a royal welcome, she decides to go along with the pretense. Lo and behold, it turns out that the dead son has an identical twin brother, who discovers she's an impostor, but falls in love with her anyway.

There's just one problem between Cinderella and her prince living happily ever after: the baby's real father, a petty thief and con artist, who threatens to reveal her true identity, unless she goes along with his scheme to fleece the Winterbournes. If this is a "Cinderella" comedy, it was conceived way past midnight.

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