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Overall Rating
2.19

Awesome: 4.4%
Worth A Look: 10.99%
Just Average: 19.78%
Pretty Crappy: 28.57%
Sucks36.26%

6 reviews, 55 user ratings


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Stepford Wives, The (2004)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Irrelevant piece of almost-parody."
2 stars

When Ira Levin's novel 'The Stepford Wives' hit stores in 1972, it hit like a lightning bolt. It used a mix of sci-fi and horror to cut right to the heart of the gender war -- the backlash against feminism, the dark fears of what men really wanted.

It sold many, many copies, and the first film version (1975) was so successful it spawned three made-for-TV sequels (including The Stepford Children and The Stepford Husbands). Now comes a "comedic re-imagining" (doesn't anyone want to call a remake a remake anymore?), and my prediction is that it will go nowhere. Its concerns are simply not our concerns now. The movie congratulates us for rejecting sexist notions that the majority of us put to sleep decades ago.

It's true that a funny remake might've been possible, if set in the '70s. But this Stepford Wives is pointedly set now, when fabulous network executive Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) gloats over her new reality shows that pit gender against gender. (A hapless victim of one of the shows, I Can Do Better!, is played by actor-writer Mike White in a vivid cameo that brings up emotions the movie can't deal with.) Joanna is soon dumped from the network, and she and her schlumpy husband Walter (Matthew Broderick) and their two kids move to Stepford, Connecticut, a gated community full of suspiciously chipper and "perfect" women married to smug dweebs.

Screenwriter Paul Rudnick tries to establish the post-feminist complaint that many career women, having tasted power, have become as corrupt and establishment as the men, and have neglected their families just as much. Joanna's reality shows reveal a strong male resentment of women's freedom to choose (or at least to choose foolishly). Okay, so men and women both suck -- what else is new? Rudnick, whose reputation as a sharp wit is fading fast, follows the basic template of the earlier versions of the story, but the male-female attitudes seem yellowed with age. He does much better with the gay and Jewish humor, relaxing into bitchy, comfortable repartee voiced by Bette Midler's Jewish-feminist author and Roger Bart's swishy urban gay man. Midler and Bart are the sole curators of the film's laughs.

The movie could only have worked as an overbaked parody, but director Frank Oz, despite some feinting towards an antic-gothic Tim Burton style, just doesn't have his heart in it. When Walter is surrounded by the shadowy, red-jacketed men of Stepford, led by a leonine Christopher Walken in full sinister bloom, Stepford Wives hits the tone it seems to be straining for. But most of the movie is blandly designed, with a performance by Nicole Kidman to match. As in To Die For, she doesn't play emotion -- she plays her idea of dark-comedy caricature of emotion. As a remedy for this film, which gives Kidman nothing to do except walk in Katharine Ross's footsteps, I refer you to her work in Dogville, which digs far deeper into the realities of how men and women use each other, and how a challenging personality can be subjugated to a rigid community.

I saw various couples at The Stepford Wives. What could the film give them to discuss? Of what relevance is this 1972 story to us now? What hurts the film most is that the openly gay Paul Rudnick doesn't seem all that horrified by the fate of the Stepford women; he seems to find it kind of funny, the way he finds all surface-obsessed women (such as Lisa Kudrow in the awful Marci X and his own creation for Premiere magazine "Libby Gelman-Waxner") comical and lovably blinkered. When Glenn Close leads a group of Stepford wives in a ridiculous aerobics session that employs household-cleaning motions, we're not supposed to be shocked; we're supposed to laugh (unfortunately, we don't). The audience feels much worse when the chatty gay man becomes a boring gay Republican, or when the slobby, Jewish Bette Midler turns up Stepfordized.

This 'Stepford Wives' isn't about the war between the genders; it's more about Jews and gays vs. hetero WASPs. But Rudnick did that already, brilliantly and subtly coded, in the 'Addams Family' movies. Maybe it's time for this once-gifted comedy writer to find something else to say.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10009&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/08/07 22:31:32
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User Comments

8/05/08 Screwball It was okay for a sunday afternoon 3 stars
8/23/07 Matt Forgettable fluff with a few amusing moments. Wait for it on TV. 3 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega Really funny parody of a classic tale of horror. 4 stars
11/10/06 David Pollastrini boring, dull, etc. 1 stars
10/08/06 isis ok... 3 stars
6/07/06 Peggy Doty GOOD REMAKE OF AN OLD MOVIE 4 stars
5/21/06 Diane P very very bad and disappointing 2 stars
11/21/05 Kurtis J. Beard Atrocious. Walken is even bad. Didn't see that coming. 1 stars
10/26/05 deadwiz I found it quite funny. Nothing special though. 3 stars
10/19/05 odditie Survivable 3 stars
10/18/05 the untrained eye At least the original had Katherine Ross' boobies. 1 stars
8/25/05 Nick Worst movie ever! Are they robots or implant victims? Why was there a Nicole Kidman Robot? 1 stars
4/30/05 alice stupid, boring, loved the first one this one sucks 1 stars
1/12/05 Tom Benton A brainless and simple remake that can be enjoyable. 3 stars
11/14/04 Gabby Why why why why? What's the point? What a waste of celuloid! 1 stars
10/23/04 R Smith Film should have attacked bullies and wife beaters. 1 stars
9/26/04 alicia to put it eloquently: it sucked 1 stars
9/09/04 farwonth Maybe one or two laughs, the rest ...what the f#$% 2 stars
9/08/04 Gary Newton technicolour battle of the sexes,well acted but just a tad cheesy 3 stars
9/07/04 Wes Luther C'mon valerie hart. This could put an end to one's being a fan of Nicole! 1 stars
8/31/04 Wanda Ruhr Needed Ashley Judd in it. Then we'd have been warned that it is atrocious. 1 stars
8/29/04 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne C'mon K Man, WATERWORLD is a masterpiece compared to this braindead harpy vomit! 1 stars
8/27/04 K Man just as shi--y as Waterworld 1 stars
8/26/04 Maureen McDevitt It had some pretty funny lines... but totally missed the point of the original. 3 stars
8/24/04 Millie Maelstrom Insults men, women, Christians, Jews alike. Blames victims. Real harpy turd of a movie! 1 stars
8/15/04 McGraw Bad, bad, bad...a totall mess of a film. 1 stars
8/07/04 Alien assassin Don't you dare do this to "Westworld", Mr. Oz !!! 1 stars
8/01/04 valerie hart wotch it for nicole if ur a fan of hers uwill luv the film if not its to light hearted 4 stars
8/01/04 Daniel Roemer This movie is wonderful and the ending is even better 5 stars
7/25/04 My Two Cents Very funny black comedy. But too short. Could have accom a few more scenes. 4 stars
7/23/04 Sandy Turynowicz confusing & not to good 2 stars
7/17/04 legend Where to being with this awful film...umm..a fire would be nice. Save your money. 1 stars
7/14/04 crystal Dood, Nicole Kidman... 5 stars
7/11/04 sd Such promise, such a mess. Set designers can hold head up, however. 2 stars
7/08/04 J Cadiramen Watch it for Nicole, and enjoy Bette to boot! A hoot! 5 stars
7/03/04 Carly I think this movie was way better than the first and Nicole Kidman is an amzing actress. 4 stars
6/27/04 Deanna Schlocky but so was the original movie. Message: we've gone to far to go back now. 4 stars
6/19/04 SF Glenn Close is the only thing worth watching. 3 stars
6/18/04 Carrielle I thought it wasthe best of the summer it ROCKED!!! 5 stars
6/18/04 Gray not one positive straight male is shown fuck this flick! 1 stars
6/18/04 Emily i didn't like it 2 stars
6/17/04 Ryan Nice 4 stars
6/17/04 Unanon My only funny theatre experience here was a lost toddler calling for her mommy. Seriously. 2 stars
6/15/04 Lola Awesome story Line but this remake was pathetic. It was pretentious and un-funny. 1 stars
6/15/04 Boyinthedesignerbubble The new cast was good, but the original was still far better. 3 stars
6/15/04 Marce It was light, fluffy and entertaining; extactly what it aimed to be and nothing more. 4 stars
6/14/04 Rex if you've seen the trailer, you've seen the movie 1 stars
6/14/04 Norm Hilarious!! 4 stars
6/14/04 roy Worthless 2 stars
6/14/04 The Talking Elbow Jason Oz, how come you only gave your dads movie 4 of 5 stars? 3 stars
6/13/04 Kelly Nicole Kidman's more concerned with her collagened lips and overacts -- it's distracting 3 stars
6/12/04 Anne Peterson tries to push a silly, watered-down feminist angle and just reinforces stereotypes 1 stars
6/11/04 dave go watch garfield, its better than this crap 1 stars
6/11/04 Jason Oz Support my dad! 4 stars
6/10/04 robert berkoff pass 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  11-Jun-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Nov-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  15-Jul-2004


Directed by
  Frank Oz

Written by
  Paul Rudnick

Cast
  Nicole Kidman
  Matthew Broderick
  Bette Midler
  Glenn Close
  Christopher Walken
  Jon Lovitz



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