The Stepford Wives

The original 1975 The Stepford Wives was a psychological thriller, extremely relevant because of the pressing issues women's rights. Many of those issues still exist, but not to the same degree they did nearly thirty years ago. Quite strangely, the remake decided to go in a completely different direction; comedy. This weakens the already gutted social satire of the film. Moreover, large amounts of bad press due to alleged clashes between the cast and the filmmakers, as well as last minute reshoots due to audience test screenings are bad signals to a film that simply seems like a bad idea. Part of the shock of the original was learning what a "Stepford wife" truly was. Now, the term is well known, so there is no real secret to be uncovered in the film.

If anything, The Stepford Wives is a parody (albeit an unfunny one) on an outmoded way of living, where the women are domestic goddesses who always cook, clean, dress impeccably, and make love to their husbands. They are completely brainless, have no ambitions, and are never the breadwinners. In other words, they are robots. And their husbands think they are perfect. Into this weird world steps Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman, Cold Mountain, The Human Stain), her husband Walter Kresby (Matthew Broderick, You Can Count on Me, Good Boy!), and their children. In this marriage, Joanna, a high-powered television executive, was the more successful one. They relocated to Stepford, Connecticut because of a disastrous reality show that sunk her career. Walter believes the peace and quiet will do her good.

They immediately notice something is off. Joanna is baffled at the complete lack of free will and the backwardness of all of the women, who seem like demented housewives from the fifties. They are all tall, blond, and statuesque. The only person who seems to share her view is author Bobbie Markowitz (Bette Midler, What Women Want, Isn't She Great). Walter doesn't notice, only because he is spending so much time with the men of Stepford, who smoke cigars and sit around in robes having fun. The alpha male of Stepford is Mike Wellington (Christopher Walken, Envy, Man on Fire), and his wife Claire (Glenn Close, Le Divorce, The Safety of Objects) the head female. Mike slowly indoctrinates Walter into the beliefs of the Stepford men, slowly turning him against Joanna. Claire tries to get Joanna to participate in all of the terribly old-fashioned housewife chores. Instead, Joanna, Bobbie, and Roger Bannister (an amusing Roger Bart, The Insider, Hercules) try to piece together what happened to the women.

Everybody knows they are all robots. Heck, the trailers even give this away. As a result, the audience knows exactly where the film is going, and the characters are playing catch-up. The movie is not clever or funny enough to do anything, which leaves a very bored audience waiting to see how the film will end. Aside from some very pretty sets, there is no hint of originality or thought in Paul Rudnick's (Marci X, Isn't She Great) screenplay and Frank Oz's (The Score, Bowfinger) direction. Their first mistake was not to take the comedy far enough. Everybody, especially Kidman and Broderick, takes themselves far too seriously, causing most of the jokes to fall flat. The world has changed a lot since Ira Levin's novel came out, and there are not many people that can relate to the world that Joanna and Walter stepped into. The least Oz and Rudnick could have done was update the story to make its ideas more contemporary.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 33 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual content, thematic material, and language.

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