As calculated as the cries of ‘Go Ricki!’ on its star’s talkshow, Mrs Winterbourne is a sappy, old-fashioned and predictable vehicle for actress-turned-talk maven-turned-actress-again Ricki Lake that delivers requisite warmth but few laughs. Lake’s ebullient charm and solid performances by Shirley MacLaine, Brendan Fraser and Miguel Sandoval provide some highlights.
Based on a novel [I Married a Dead Man] by Cornell Woolrich, pic, as written by Phoef Sutton (a Cheers alumnus) and Lisa-Maria Radano (The Tracey Ullman Show), is highly derivative – the most obvious similarity being to While You Were Sleeping.
Striving for a fairy-tale tone, story centers on Connie Doyle (Lake), a down-on-her-luck young woman – impregnated and abandoned by her lowlife boyfriend (Loren Dean) – who is wrongly believed to be the widow of a young man who was an heir to the Winterbourne family fortune.
Awakening in the hospital after a train crash that took the life of one of the Winterbournes and his wife, Connie realizes that keeping quiet can offer her infant son great opulence, as well as the family provided by matriarch Grace (MacLaine) and Bill (Fraser), Connie’s dead ‘husband’s’ twin brother.
The brazen sentimentality at work here doesn’t give the material much weight. Most of the laughs come courtesy of MacLaine’s ailing Grace, who can’t resist cigarettes or booze, and her loyal butler, Paco (Sandoval), whose machinations help bring together Connie and Bill.