Starring Ricki Lake, Shirley MacLaine, Brandon Fraser

This film is on the Worst of 1996 list.
"Mrs. Winterbourne"

Opens: April 19, 1996 | Rated: PG-13

A pregnant homeless woman is on a train to Boston. On board she meets a rich young couple that is also about to have a baby.

The train derails, killing the couple and a hospital mix up finds the homeless woman wrongly identified as the rich young wife.

The husband's family, none of whom have met his bride, takes her home to their estate. She has her baby, lives as their daughter-in-law and falls in love with the dead man's brother.

Sounds morbid, doesn't it? Well, don't tell the executives at Tri-Star Pictures -- they think it's a comedy.

Witness "Mrs. Winterbourne," an occasionally funny mistaken identity movie in very poor taste.

Talk show host Ricki Lake plays Connie Doyle, an aimless New York girl whose boyfriend kicks her out when she announces she's pregnant.

After the train crash twist of fate, she finds herself living the good life in Boston, with a mother-in-law who adores her (Shirley MacLaine) and the dead son's twin brother (Brendan Fraser plays both brothers), who has his doubts about her.

Afraid of breaking her new mom's heart, she plays along with the mistake, waiting for the right moment to break the bad news.

Of course, many missteps lead Frasier to doubt she is the orphan daughter of a Hong Kong banker that his brother married -- her table manners are more trailer park than old money and she accidentally writes her real name on a check while he's watching -- but he's falling in love with her and is preoccupied with guilty feelings about coveting his dead brother's supposed wife.

Decades ago Barbara Stanwyck was in a dark noir film based on the same concept (I can't remember the title for the life of me), and this story is much more natural as a black, intrigue-laced drama. Especially in the last reel, when the baby's father shows up to wreak havoc on the heroine's happiness.

As a light-hearted comedy, the premise is nearly unforgivable. Yet, "Mrs. Winterbourne" has it's funny moments.

The Cuban butler, played by Miguel Sandoval ("Clear and Present Danger") gets off many of the movies best lines, mostly at the expense of his employer. Brendan Fraser give a standout performance, showing impeccable comic timing. And the movie does take a big swing at snooty Boston society.

But "Mrs. Winterbourne" is also burdened by dabbling in politically correctness and social conciseness.

Frasier comments on Lake's white trash qualities (read: tolerance subplot). The butler is gay for no reason other than having the token minority represent more than one group. Of course, homelessness and single motherhood are touched on -- but never enough to say anything meaningful.

Aside from an adequate number of laughs, Frasier is the only thing in "Mrs. Winterborune" to make spending 104 minutes with a talk show host not seem like a waste of time.

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