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Overall Rating

Awesome: 21.74%
Worth A Look: 11.59%
Just Average: 10.14%
Pretty Crappy: 21.74%

4 reviews, 45 user ratings

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by Jaycie

"Chris Columbus has mommy issues."
2 stars

At the time Stepmom was released, the filmmaking career of Chris Columbus was in the depths of a decline in quality that would not reverse itself until he started adapting the Harry Potter series – and would promptly resume with Christmas with the Kranks. He is currently in the process of producing a film about Jesus that stars two of the more memorable Game of Thrones cast members, because if there’s one thing you can count on Hollywood to do, it’s making the same mistake twice. The mistake I speak of is trusting him to hire a small group of very talented actors – Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon and Ed Harris, for example – and not give them a movie as trite and saccharine as Stepmom.

If not for this trio, the best anyone could expect from Stepmom is a Tuesday night movie slot on Lifetime. You could swap out Roberts for Kimberley Williams-Paisley, Sarandon for Patricia Richardson and Harris for Peter Gallagher, and you’d get otherwise the exact same movie. Admittedly, a garden-variety "white family with problems" story doesn’t require a Tarantino behind the camera or a Welles at the desk. But one decent screenwriter could have come up with a better script than the five this one took, and one decent director could have read that script and still decided it wasn’t worth anyone’s time.

I’ll summarize the plot for you, but you can probably guess where it will go from the opening clause. Isabel (Roberts) is frustrated with her older boyfriend Luke’s (Harris) kids, snotty prepubescent Anna (Jena Malone) and human squeak toy Ben (Liam Aiken), who refuse to treat her with half the respect afforded to their perfect mother, Jackie (Sarandon). A woman with a spine might have simply refused to continue participating in this dynamic, especially since there is only one scene in which Luke parents his progeny, because he is the man and his very important job cannot withstand a single interruption. Alas, Isabel and Jackie must learn to deal with each other, and the psycho hose beast Anna is becoming, before one of the two conveniently gets cancer. Can you, the reader, guess which one?

Nobody enjoys playing Count the Clichés more than I, but Stepmom is enough to break the cliché counter. Isabel is a lissome black-clad blonde working in an image-obsessed field, and as such must be the diametrical opposite of sweatered suburban homemaker Jackie, who is so terminally unhip that she doesn’t even keep coffee in the house. (Two kids and no coffee? My ass.) The cause of Jackie and Luke’s divorce is so glossed over that you’ll forget what it was by the time the credits roll. Isabel finally breaks through to Anna by being willing to say the word "sex" in front of her. There are puppies and ponies. Not only do they play, sing and/or dance to "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough," which I officially hate now, they do so three times. Did I mention the cancer? Because someone gets it, although it doesn’t come off any more anguishing than hair loss and clumsiness.

The three adults do the best they can with the material; while none can claim this as a career highlight, all possess such natural talent that no one will remember Stepmom when it comes time to assess their legacies. The kids are equally adept, assuming Malone’s goal was to make viewers want to smack her across the mouth and Aiken’s was to make them want to chloroform him, if only for a few minutes of peace and quiet. (This kid does not laugh. When amused, he produces a noise that is somewhere between a shriek and a squawk.) It is no surprise that one of Aiken’s last roles of significance was in an effort from "comedian" Gavin McInnes, the most punchable living person who has never been accused of war crimes. Malone has done better for herself lately, yet I still hear the voice of the petulant tween she plays here whenever she utters a line elsewhere. If these two were supposed to be annoying enough to make your reproductive system enter the witness protection program, mission accomplished – though somehow I doubt they were.

All these frustrations aside, the worst aspect of Stepmom is its implicit message: that every problem that crops up in this family is for its women to fix. I’ve mentioned Luke’s failure to father, but he’s a pretty sorry excuse for a spouse as well; save the cancer, the entire plot could have been avoided if he weren’t a self-centered, barely-there asshole in general. We’re supposed to believe he’s busy with work at all times, which would be a tolerable excuse if he traded off once in a while with the woman who birthed neither brat, who herself has a time-sensitive job until his kids become more important. Besides a couple of family meetings and one pointless scene involving toy boats, Luke might as well have already succumbed to cancer himself. In fact, the movie might have been stronger if Jackie and Isabel were forced to come to terms with each other on their own.

But why tell that story? Columbus couldn’t care less; his job was to mix an overtired narrative with completely flat cinematography into the easiest paycheck of his life. If only he’d used that check to buy himself a clue.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=360&reviewer=432
originally posted: 07/28/15 14:45:14
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User Comments

2/17/08 Pamela White it is hard to be stepmom but Julia works 4 stars
12/08/07 Keystra Williams AWFUL. 1 stars
8/05/06 Chris Wilbik Well acted a good movie to see 4 stars
1/14/06 Jo This is an Awsome movie!! 5 stars
8/25/05 Michael Opens Up Some Hidden Emotion For Some 5 stars
8/16/05 ES A rip off of a Canadian movie, this movie is hang your head in shame bad 1 stars
3/11/05 Amber Lets just say there ain't no mountain too high for Columbus to climb!!! 5 stars
11/23/04 rachel benear it touched home hard and is an excellent movie 5 stars
5/19/04 Lindsay Hicks It's afantastic film i love it to bits i can neva get sicjk of it!!!!!! 5 stars
12/22/03 Chris One of the best films of our time. The ONLY movie I ever cried in. 5 stars
10/08/03 SuperBarbie2003 I really liked this movie. Julia Roberts Rocks!!! 4 stars
8/19/03 epy c super 5 stars
4/08/03 Jack Sommersby About as insightful a family drama as "The Cosby Show". 1 stars
11/27/02 Kelli Whip those kids' natural ASSES!! 1 stars
10/28/02 David What's lower than 1(Total crap) surely there should be a 0 (worst than total crap) 1 stars
8/07/02 I Can't Swim Can kiddies post about kiddies elsewhere? BTW, movie eats it, TOO 1 stars
7/01/02 The Klein-bottle Pussy Good acting in service of - uh - who cares what. 3 stars
6/11/02 hilarydsur awesome 5 stars
5/11/02 english marky goood film 5 stars
2/27/02 Rebecca Turk When I see how well you act, then I'll listen to what you have to say about wonderful actor 5 stars
2/16/02 Toni Margello I think this moie was marketed wrong and should have been portrayed as a heart felt drama 5 stars
1/05/02 Andrew Carden Such A Crappy and Boring Waste Of Time. 1 stars
12/09/01 Tam Avoided plenty of stepmother cliches. Good screenplay. Vivacious performance from Roberts. 4 stars
4/12/01 Siena Coppa Awsome Movie!!! It made me cry 5 stars
4/09/01 Gary I really liked this movie. Roberts is wonderful and it is funny. 5 stars
2/05/01 Doug I liked it simply because Julia Roberts is the best actress ever! 5 stars
3/18/00 Lame-Oh yucky movie 1 stars
12/03/99 Bozo Worse than almost anything; so bad I can't even believe it 1 stars
9/16/99 strike I expacted a 90's Terms of Endearment.Hell,even Evening Star was much better than this shit 1 stars
7/12/99 Adam Chowndy I thought that this movie was great. Even though some critics call it cheap, it's worth it. 5 stars
6/06/99 Arkansas Jon Definite chick flick. A few chuckles. Not memorable, but not unbearable. 3 stars
2/23/99 Mira Sarandon wasted in glam Hollywood 'tragedy', sappy to the point of annoyance. 2 stars
2/18/99 Derek Total Hollywood-gloss treatment of serious issue- but I kind of bought it anyway 4 stars
2/11/99 Dasha A good, if not really memorable, weepie 4 stars
1/24/99 Meepos. "If you like big teeth" is the best quote all year, but the movie was syruppy. 2 stars
1/23/99 Hannah I cried a lot but it still kinda sucked. 3 stars
1/23/99 MR HOLLYWOOD!! this movie really drags long and hard, BUT, its oscar material & it made my g'friend cry 4 stars
1/19/99 loborojo@hotmail.com Kleenex made a whole lotta dough on dis one. 3 stars
1/15/99 MilhousFan Good god! This movie was fucking awful! Worst movie EVER! 1 stars
1/11/99 Mr Showbiz Sarandon lends the proceedings an ounce of dignity, but Harris and Roberts are wasted. 2 stars
1/06/99 famillier Would've been better if not for that make-me-puke lip sync scene. 3 stars
1/04/99 JLB a Lifetime made-for-cable movie made with expensive actors 3 stars
12/30/98 PirateGirl Chris -- here, have some answers. Blech. 3 stars
12/17/98 Bryan An effective affecting tearjerker! Great acting. 4 stars
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  25-Dec-1998 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Chris Columbus

Written by
  Gigi Levangie

  Julia Roberts
  Susan Sarandon
  Ed Harris
  Jena mallone
  Liam Aiken
  Lynn Whitfield

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