Overused tactics, recycled plot plague 'Mrs. Winterbourne'

By Anthony R. Ashley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 29, 1996

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Photo courtesy of TriStar Pictures
Talk-show diva Ricki Lake stars as pregant, 18-year-old Connie Doyle in search of family and love in "Mrs. Winterbourne."


"None of us fit in here," Grace Winterbourne (Shirley MacLaine, still working the same middle-aged grouch character since Terms of Endearment ) tells Connie Doyle (Ricki Lake) about the Winterbourne family.

Unfortunately, she's right. None of the actors in TriStar Pictures' new romantic-comedy "Mrs. Winterbourne" fit into their roles with believability or comfort.

Talk-show diva Lake plays an 18-year-old poor Jersey girl mistaken for a rich girl. Lake leaves home with familial troubles, taking off to New York City, where man-troubles await her. Once she gets to the Big Apple, she is picked up by Steve DeCunzo (Loren Dean) in a diner. She moves in with this sleazy man, only to end up pregnant with his baby. He doesn't want the baby, denies it's his, and throws her out.

Penniless, pregnant and homeless, Connie wanders around the city looking for a place to stay. She goes to Grand Central Station, where, in a rush of panic and confusion, she boards a train to Boston, and not a subway.

Now, first of all, if you have lived in New York almost nine months, wouldn't you be able to tell the difference between a subway and a train? And who, besides casting director Nancy Foy, still believes the almost 30-year-old Lake can play an 18-year-old?

While on the train, Connie meets newlyweds Hugh and Patricia Winterbourne (Brendan Fraser and Susan Haskell), who are on their way to Boston to meet Hugh's family - the first meeting between the daughter-in-law and mother. A serious accident occurs, killing the newlyweds, but not before Connie has tried on Patricia's wedding ring.

Eight days later, Connie wakes up in the hospital with a new baby and a new identity. She is then transported to the posh Winterbourne Estate, where she meets Grace. Lake's Connie is taken in with open arms by Grace, who thinks this is her daughter-in-law. Connie tries to tell Grace and Hugh's twin brother Bill (also Fraser), an uptight and prissy millionaire, that she's not who they think she is.

Eventually, the white trash-looking Connie is given a "My Fair Lady"-esque make over, and voila! Bill falls for her, opening up his sensitive side. A marriage proposal follows after the baby urinates in Bill's face. I just hope Connie was wearing a dental dam when Bill kissed her. This overused tactic shows just how unfunny the gags are in this Richard Benjamin-directed dud.

Lake and Fraser never convince the audience they are a romantic couple. The chemistry between the two is dull and, as mentioned before, unbelievable. Maybe screenwriters Phoef Sutton (TV's "Cheers") and Lisa-Maria Radano (TV's "The Tracey Ullman Show") should have realized they were dealing with a movie that would have to hold an audience's attention, and not a commercial-filled Sunday Night Movie of the Week.

This "While You Were Sleeping" rip-off shows the stiffness of Fraser as a leading man, shows that MacLaine's tired old act of crabby women is getting tired and old, and shows that if Lake wants to portray an 18-year-old, to stick with John Waters. Lake spouts off lines in a whiny, annoying voice, like she is reading off of cue cards without her contacts.

Hell-ga, Olive and I agreed that this movie is definitely video rental "worthy," nothing more. At the end of this movie, I, a diehard Ricki fan, stood up and chanted, "No Ricki! No Ricki!"