Mrs. Winterbourne (1996) Shirley MacLaine, Ricki Lake, Brendan Fraser, Miguel Sandoval - Richard Benjamin Movie Review

Mrs. Winterbourne (1996)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Ricki Lake in Mrs. Winterbourne (1996)

The Winterbourne Identity

Connie Doyle (Ricki Lake) arrived in New York with big dreams, unfortunately she met and fell for low life Steve DeCunzo (Loren Dean) who treated her badly and when she told him she was pregnant dumped her. With no where to go Connie ends up on a train where she meets Hugh Winterbourne (Brendan Fraser) and his pregnant wife Patricia (Susan Haskell), but when the train is involved in an accident Connie wakes up in hospital and somehow has been mistaken for Patricia who along with Hugh died in the crash. Despite trying to explain what happened no one will listen and before she knows Connie and her baby have been whisked off to the Winterbourne mansion where Hugh's mother Grace (Shirley MacLaine) welcomes her with open arms as her daughter-in-law Patricia and her new Grandson, but Hugh's identical twin Bill (Brendan Fraser) is less welcoming and is suspicious of her.

If "Mrs. Winterbourne" had been made 50 years earlier it probably would have had someone like George Cukor behind the camera and then say Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers in front of it. It would have been a screwball comedy full of energy, romance, comedy and characters who jumped off of the screen. Unfortunately "Mrs. Winterbourne" wasn't made 50 years earlier and ends up a typically flat attempt at doing a modern screwball romantic comedy which lacks the great laughs, energy and characters. That doesn't mean it's terrible, in fact "Mrs. Winterbourne" has a few positives but it does end up ordinary and released a year after "While You Were Sleeping" ends up a bit too similar with the whole mistaken identity, confusion comedy thing going on.

Ricki Lake, Shirley MacLaine and Brendan Fraser in Mrs. Winterbourne (1996)

Now I mentioned that if "Mrs. Winterbourne" had been made earlier it would have been a screwball comedy; in truth it was made earlier, a 1950 movie called "No Man of Her Own" except that was a drama rather than a comedy. Anyway the story actually adapts well as a romantic comedy where we have Connie mistaken for Patricia and then trying to keep the act up when she not only likes her new life but also knows how much it will hurt Grace if she knew the truth. The trouble is that just a year before we had "While You Were Sleeping" and the two movies trade on similar ideas and jokes from Connie trying to come clean but no one listening to the whole romantic storyline as Connie and Bill end up falling for each other.

But that similarity is not the biggest problem with "Mrs. Winterbourne", no the big problem is that it ends up flat as in it lacks energy, comedy and romance. Whilst some of that is down to the writing with little in the way of witty lines the lack of chemistry is the real killer stroke. Both Brendan Fraser and Ricki Lake are visually appealing especially Lake who has a down to earth warmth about her but there is no spark between them. And by chemistry I don't just mean believable romantic chemistry because the comedy never really clicks.

The knock on effect of Fraser and Lake ending up ordinary is that the supporting performances end up being more entertaining with Miguel Sandoval as chauffeur Paco delivering many of the movies best laughs. In fact Loren Dean as the nasty Steve brings more life to his character than anyone and gets across how vile and uncaring his character is in a fun manner. Of course "Mrs. Winterbourne" stars Shirley MacLaine and MacLaine is of course reliable delivering a solid performance with some of the movies more natural lines but with the movie ending up centring on Fraser and Lake it has those short comings.

What this all boils down to is that "Mrs. Winterbourne" in many ways typifies romantic comedies from the 90s which seemed desperate to recreate the magic from 50 years earlier but in this case failed to achieve it. It's by no means a bad movie just an ordinary one which in a way would be worth a remake if the right actors came along.