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6 reviews, 55 user ratings

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Stepford Wives, The (2004)
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by Todd LaPlace

"Imperfect feminism, 30 years too late."
1 stars

Hey, do you remember that time Nicole Kidman was in “To Die For” and was really good? Or that time she was in “The Others” and was again really good? Or how about that time she was in “The Hours” and won that Oscar? Yeah, she used to be really good. That’s not really the case with “The Stepford Wives.” I mean, it’s not her fault; she tried to bail on the picture before, during and after the production. I’m just saying that if you’re a fan of Kidman’s work, you might want to pretend this one doesn’t exist. It really is as bad as you expect it to be.

There’s something ironic about “The Stepford Wives,” a film focused on perfection, being so fundamentally flawed. Like the update of “The Manchurian Candidate,” contemporary filmmakers love to think bigger always equals better, even when the twist ending — the element in both these originals that has all the impact — is no longer a surprise. At least “Manchurian” spent a little bit of its budget on a script that took the old form and updated it to critique contemporary politics; “Stepford” doesn’t both with such formalities. Director Frank Oz (the man behind the underrated “What About Bob?” and the voice behind Cookie Monster and Animal) wasted his over-inflated budget on style, ignoring pesky little issues like a stale story that hasn’t been original since 1975.

The sad thing is the movie does have a little teeny, tiny bit of potential, which seems to get buried under mountains of rewrites (which leaves the film open for at least one monumental flaw). Joanna (Nicole Kidman) is a high-powered Manhattan executive — notice the short dark hair and sensible black business suit — that produces feminine reality trash TV until she’s fired when one of her dumped stars (Mike White of “The School of Rock”) starts shooting. Joanna takes the news badly and suffers a crippling nervous breakdown, which has the promise of leading to a great domestic psychological and comedic satire. Instead, the film gets as bland as the title town. Seeking some R&R, Joanna’s husband Walter (Matthew Broderick) migrates from New York to white-washed, upper-class Connecticut (which is the victim of one of the few great barbs late in the film) and the film gets complacent.

The next hour is dedicated to three things, which get repeated ad nauseam: the women of Stepford live in a collective memory idea of the 1950s where women vacuum in pearls and have time to make a five-course meal every day; Joanna, Bobbie (Bette Midler) and Roger (Roger Bart) are new transplants that don’t understand the retro politics of the community; and the Stepford men spend all their time at the men’s club smoking cigars and congratulating themselves on their subjugated wives. At no point does the film even approach the territory of anything interesting. It’s just an odd collection of unfunny leftovers from bunches of writers that each tried to take the film in a different direction. Claire (Glenn Close), the social leader of the women, leads her troops in exercising resembling household chores (“Let’s all be washing machines”). The outcasts join together to note the unnatural perfection at a community picnic, followed by a truly scary square dance. Perhaps the film’s biggest fault is revealing its hand during this boring segment. If you haven’t seen the movie, the old movie or any type of advertising for this one, you might want to skip ahead to the next paragraph. During the square dance, one of the wives (played by an underutilized Faith Hill) flips out and starts shooting off sparks. A little later, one of the husbands pays off a bet to Walter by getting his wife to dispense singles, ATM-style. To make a long story short, the women of the town are robots (which will eventually change and become the film’s monumental fault).

When the original film was made, feminism was still a hot topic, and the film’s premise would have seemed like a modern piece of political cinema (but since the film was pretty much a flop, it didn’t really turn out that way). The politics of the 2004 version just seem quaint and outdated. Not that the film makes a clear stand either for or against the feminist revolution; it meanders somewhere in the middle purgatory where non-confrontation films reside. Obviously, we’re supposed to read the town of Stepford as an antiquated place, where the men can feel like men and the women can feel like morons. At the same time, Joanna is such a heinous bitch and neglectful mother, the film almost seems to be anti-woman. In order to be truly happy, the film suggests women have to wear the hats of successful career woman, doting wife and flawless mother, and do so with a spring in her step. You’re never really allowed to have feelings in Stepford, but you’re also not allowed to have negative feelings anyplace else.

Not that the filmmakers would notice any sort of thematic problem with their film; they’re too busy turning their minority characters into comedic stereotypes. Midler, playing an angry Jewish writer, and Bart, an effeminate architect/fashion label whore, are given the best (which still means average in the context of the film) zingers, but it seems like it’s to make up for the complete lack of characterization given to both. You know you’ve got a problem when your token gay guy gets all clap-happy at the mention of Martha Stewart. Speaking of Roger, when he undergoes the Stepford treatment — which the film tries to pass off as creative and subversive (Oh my God, but he’s a man!) — he is turned into a Republican congressional candidate. If the town is really so cold and conservative and starved for upper class perfection, why wasn’t he changed into a woman? The couple’s lone pre-alteration appearance was filled with the “manly” partner looking embarrassed at the “girly” one’s femininity, which suggests the former just wasn’t that into the latter. Why keep them together in the end? The film could have easily taken a pointed stab at log cabin Republicans. Maybe then the film could have had at least some value.

More than anything, I think I’m just flabbergasted that so many talented people could be reduced to such dismal dreck. Kidman — whose displeasure about working on such a doomed project is well-documented — looks bored. Broderick seems to be constantly thinking how much better it was on Broadway. Even Christopher Walken (as Close’s head honcho husband) chose to do his role as if his character is doing a constant Christopher Walken impression. I hate to place the blame on one person, especially when no one can claim they rose above the material, but the film is the perfect example of the value of a good screenplay is to a film’s foundation. Paul Rudnick, the man to blame for “Marci X” and “Isn’t She Great,” seemed to get the short end of the stick, so he’s the man on record as having wrote this piece of muddled garbage. Maybe it’s unfair to place the blame for an unintelligible third act on the writer when it had to be reshot after preview audiences blasted the original ending, but even a bad movie deserves a rewritten ending that doesn’t contradict the entire rest of the movie. That’s just lazy, sloppy and so very far from perfect.

I can’t help but wonder what Faith Hill was doing in this movie; she’s a completely unnecessary set decoration. She’s trotted out to act as a double take during the Stepford women’s meetings, but she has no significant role or acting ability. She’s just kind of there too, looking all blonde and vacant. You’d think she would have gotten offended they thought she looked and acted like a mindless machine, but she’s probably used to it by now.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10009&reviewer=401
originally posted: 10/16/05 03:36:59
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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
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  11-Jun-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Nov-2004



Directed by
  Frank Oz

Written by
  Paul Rudnick

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

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