“ Genre: Comedy / Theatrical Release: 1996 / Suitable for 12 years and over / Director: Richard Benjamin / Actors: Shirley MacLaine, Ricki Lake, Brendan Fraser, Miguel Sandoval, Loren Dean ... / DVD released 2002-11-04 at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: Dubbed, PAL, Widescreen „
Connie Doyle has not had an easy life. Her mother died when she was a child, relations with her father are not good, then she gets thrown out by her boyfriend when she is pregnant. Boarding the wrong train, she bumps into Patricia and Hugh Winterbourne, who try to help her out. Then there is a train crash, and the next thing Connie knows, she is in hospital, has a baby, Hugh and Patricia are dead and Hugh's mother thinks she is Patricia. Not having anywhere to go, she goes along with this - particularly as Hugh's identical brother, Bill, takes a shine to her an asks her to marry him. But then her ex-boyfriend tries to blackmail her...and ends up dead. Is Connie responsible for his murder? And will she ever be able to explain her deception to Bill?
Not being American, Ricki Lake is one of those names that I have heard of, but can't quite place. She is a chat show host, but also acts, hence her role as Connie Doyle in this film. Bearing in mind she is better known as a chat show host and not an actress, I didn't have any particular expectations of her performance, but was actually pleasantly surprised. Connie is quirky and funny without being silly, and I think Ricki Lake did a great job in the role. My only criticism is that she doesn't look like the teenager she is supposed to be - probably not surprising considering she was in her mid-twenties when she was filming; however, I could just about overlook this.
I don't particularly like Brendan Foster, who plays Hugh and Bill, as an actor - he doesn't really do all that much for me visually and I don't think he particularly excels as an actor. However, he gives an adequate, if not brilliant, performance, particularly as Bill. I didn't see much in the way of on-screen chemistry between him and Connie though, which is a shame as a whole part of the film rests upon their relationship. Shirley Maclaine plays the Winterbourne matriarch, who immediately takes a shining to Connie. She is capable of much more, but for a fairly minor role, she does a good job, and her dedication to Connie is touching to see.
This film doesn't pretend to be high action or a box office hit, and it is just as well, because I can see it bombing at the cinema. However, as a made-for-tv film, which is what I think it is, it whiles away a couple of hours pleasantly enough. The storyline is completely silly, made up of the usual silly coincidences, followed by a slushy ending that would usually put me completely off. However, there is a streak of humour in it and everything is done in a tongue-in-cheek way, which makes it a lot more bearable. I also really like Ricki Lake's performance - it is rather on a par with Sandra Bullock in the Miss Congeniality films and made me smile, if nothing else.
Morally, this film is definitely not as it should be. Connie's deception can be partially forgiven because of her tough upbringing, but it still remains that the woman whose life she replaced was buried with her unborn child in someone else's grave, and that did sit a little uncomfortably with me. And of course, the chances of it happening are not very high. Whereas everyone loves a rags to riches story, I think a little more effort in putting the storyline together would have made this is much better film. It is based on a book by Cornell Woolrich, but I have no idea whether he is responsible for the final story or if writer Phoef Sutton used artistic licence to make it more watchable.
There is a rating of 15 on this film, which I think is way too high; 12 would have been perfectly acceptable. The only nasty scenes include a shot of a man with a bullet hole through his chest and the train crash, neither of which are very graphic at all.
Everyone loves an underdog, and that is certainly what Connie Doyle is. However, there are any number of films about underdogs out there to choose from, and there is nothing outstanding about this film to make it worthwhile anyone going out of their way to watch it. However, if it comes on television in the future and you want something light-hearted, this will probably do the trick. Recommended, just.
The DVD is available from play.com for £5.99.
Running time: 105 minutes