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Mrs. Winterbourne

Shirley MacLaine must have been awfully hard-up for work in 1996. That's the only way to explain her (apparently willing) participation in Mrs. Winterbourne, a clunky, forced romantic comedy of mistaken identity that might as well have been called While You Were Dead. MacLaine is appealing enough as Grace, the unflappable, mischievous matriarch of the wealthy Winterbourne family, but unfortunately she's only a supporting player; the titular Mrs. Winterbourne is talk show diva Ricki Lake. Lake stars as Connie Doyle, a naive Jersey teenager who gets knocked up and kicked out by NYC scumbag Steve (Loren Dean). Alone and destitute, she accidentally winds up on a Boston-bound train, where she meets the friendly Hugh Winterbourne (Brendan Fraser) and his very-pregnant wife, Patricia (Susan Haskell). Then — oh no!— the train crashes, and thanks to a set-up you can see coming a mile away, Connie is mistaken for the young Mrs. W. (conveniently, none of the other Winterbournes had ever met Hugh's blushing bride). At first Connie tries to set everyone straight — including Grace, Hugh's twin brother Bill (Fraser again), and Grace's gay chauffeur, Paco (Miguel Sandoval) — but since she and her son need somewhere to go, she eventually decides to embrace her new life. Predictably, she quickly falls for Bill (the stiffer, more businesslike brother), and he promptly returns the favor, discarding his suspicions of "Patricia" in favor of amour. Never mind that the only reason Bill seems to love Connie is that she cleans up pretty good (after the obligatory makeover montage); never mind that all of two weeks seem to pass between his brother's death and (spoiler alert) his proposal of marriage to said brother's widow. Frankly, by that point in the movie, it's hard to give a fig for logic anyway, thanks to the already loopy plot and Lake's grating performance. She embraces Connie's sweet side so thoroughly (and over-earnestly) that her brief lapses into New Joisey toughness are jarring and embarrassing rather than funny. (Apparently you can take the girl out of daytime, but you can't take daytime out of the girl.) Sandoval has some cute moments, and the always-fun-to-watch Fraser makes the best of his part — an extra half-star just for his gameness — but he doesn't have much to work with. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of Mrs. Winterbourne offers a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and a full-frame option (1.33:1), with audio in DD 5.1 and an array of subtitles. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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