Corrina, Corrina

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CORINNA,CORRINA —–charming period comedy-drama from 1994 was shrugged off by critics and sadly failed to find much audience, only reaching 94th place among the year’s crop, joining several other fine comedies that crowds missed out on—Only You, The Ref, Ed Wood, A Good Man in Africa. The $22,000,000 put into it only eked a return of $20,160,000, rating it a certified flop. It deserved much better.

Is Tater Tot Mr. Potato Head’s son?”

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L.A., 1959. Jingle-writer ‘Manny Singer’ (Ray Liotta), recently widowed, goes through several dismal applicants for job of housekeeper and nanny for his little girl ‘Molly’ (Tina Majorino, 9), withdrawn into silence after her mother’s death. When down-to-earth ‘Corrina Washington’ (Whoopi Goldberg) clicks with Molly, Manny hires her; as time goes by their employer-employee relationship deepens into something more serious and rewarding (with a few expected bumps to navigate).

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Written & directed by Jessie Nelson (her first feature), who based it in part off her own childhood mother-loss trauma. It took her nine years to bring the project to fruition, only to see the labor of love dismissed as schmaltz by reviewers, the same all-knowing knobs who raved over Forrest Gump, which crowds stampeded to see while leaving this kind-hearted gem in the dust.  Populated by nice, believably fleshed out characters we really like, framed by nifty period detail in the set design, props and costuming that summons nostalgia but isn’t spurious or suffocating: we’ll take this heartwarmer (and those mentioned above) over Gump-ghoulash indigestion any day.

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Corrina is tailor-made for Whoopi, playing it with her customary sass but effectively low-keyed, and it’s always a pleasure to see Liotta switching up his intensity to good-guy mode: they have winning chemistry together. Cute & talented, little Majorino got a big launch that year, featuring in When A Man Loves A Woman and Andre. Adding further pleasing touches are Wendy Crewson (hoping to win Liotta’s affection) and Joan Cusack (a nanny who doesn’t make the grade).

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With Erica John, Jenifer Lewis, Larry Miller, Don Ameche (85, his final film), Steven Williams.

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