The Stepford Wives

"Weak"

The Stepford Wives Review


Screenwriter Paul Rudnick (Adams Family Values, In and Out ) is wicked with the one-liners, so zingers abound in his tongue-in-cheek reworking of "The Stepford Wives" -- the creepy, retrospectively campy chiller from 1975 about suburban spouses turned into sweet, subservient, June Cleaver robots.

So ripe for lampoonery that the word "Stepford" has become an adjective ironically slapped on anything deemed too Norman Rockwell-esque, the original picture's concept of anti-feminism taken to a paranoid extreme is fodder for raillery in Rudnick's script.

But he isn't remotely as clever when it comes to plot. In fact, as long as he gets a laugh he doesn't seem to care if his story makes a lick of sense. He can't even decide if the automaton wives in his "Stepford" are robots (impervious to fire and prone to shooting sparks from their necks) or real women (brainwashed with microchip implants) who are capable of snapping out of their halcyon daze if their programming fails.

The film begins by taking humorous and well-deserved pot shots at reality TV as Joanna Eberhart -- a career-driven, Type A cable-network president played with harried, control-freak zeal by Nicole Kidman -- introduces her channel's fall line-up at an affiliates' meeting.

But when she's unceremoniously sacrificed to the PR gods soon thereafter -- in the wake of a shooting spree by a contestant on a show that used porn stars to shake up happy marriages -- Joanna has a nervous breakdown. The solution devised by her milquetoast husband (Matthew Broderick) is a move to a pristine, pastel, unsettlingly synthetic Connecticut 'burb for a quieter lifestyle.

This comedy version of "Stepford" quickly runs into trouble, however, because Rudnick and director Frank Oz (who worked together on "In and Out") over-reach for whimsy, with the town's perfectly-coifed and floral-chiffoned wives all behaving conspicuously like women from 1950s kitchen appliance commercials -- crossed with Disneyland automatons. This is good for a modest giggle (at the local spa, still in their dresses and high heels, they do aerobics based on household chores), but it's hardly a snappy foundation for a whole movie since only an idiot couldn't notice something seriously amiss.

Joanna does notice, and along with two other recent arrivals (sharply sardonic feminist self-help author Bette Midler and mock-stereotypical, squeaky-queen token gay guy Roger Bart), begins poking her dubious, liberal, city-slicker nose where it's not welcome. Meanwhile their significant others (Broderick, Jon Lovitz and David Marshall Grant) get a little too cozy at the town's exclusive Men's Club, where the secret of the plastic berg's plastic contentment is revealed (by comically uncanny ringleader Christopher Walken), much to their emasculated temptation.

Rudnick plies the picture with witty wisecracks. (Midler: "All the women around here are perfect sex kitten bimbos and all the men are drooling nerds. Doesn't that seem strange to you?" Kidman: "No. I work in television.") He revels (too much) in silly sight gags (one man's robo-wife doubles as an ATM machine). But he happily shrugs off opportunities to explore the movie's profuse potential for truly wry wit and social commentary.

He's also more guilty than any television genre he mocks for his coupling of ambitious, successful, intelligent women (as Joanna soon learns all the Stepford wives once were) with the kind of slovenly twits that would want to change them into traditional housewives. The marriage of gorgeous, stylish, go-getter Kidman to a demure, khaki-and-Izod clad Broderick never has an ounce of credibility. Neither does Joanna's contrived attempt to jettison her values and become the pastel-clad homemaker she now thinks her husband wants (because goodness knows she wouldn't want to talk to him and work out something that makes them both happy).

As more characters fall victim to Stepfordization, more problems arise. None of the women's children ever wonder what's happened to their mothers (surely Rudnick could have found some dark comedy in that arena had he tried). The wives becoming the ultimate gadgets for their technology-happy hubbies is barely touched on, and the fact that all this is grounds for any divorce -- should the robotic spouses ever become human again -- is never addressed at all.

The film is largely built around a stereotype that is as bad, if not worse, than the outdated ones it ridicules: the sitcom-spawned Emotionally Immature Idiot Husband whose job it is, countless times a week on TV, to realize he's wrong and his wife is right, but not to learn anything from it.

Worse yet, "The Stepford Wives" completely self-destructs in its convoluted, excessively expository, nonsensical, gratuitous-twist finale that depends entirely on one character's dumb-luck instant mastery of the Stepfordization technology.

As it turns out, the movie's opening credits, featuring absurd archival footage of happy wives dancing around those kitchens of tomorrow, make better satire all by themselves than anything in the story that follows.



The Stepford Wives

Facts and Figures

Run time: 93 mins

In Theaters: Friday 11th June 2004

Box Office USA: $59.3M

Box Office Worldwide: $102M

Budget: $90M

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Production compaines: De Line Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 26%
Fresh: 44 Rotten: 124

IMDB: 5.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Joanna Eberhart, as Walter Kresby, as Bobbie Markowitz, as Claire Wellington, as Mike Wellington, as Roger Bannister, as Jerry Harmon, as Dave Markowitz, as Herb Sunderson, as Beth Peters, Fallon Brooking as Kimberly Kresby, as Ted Van Sant, as Sarah Sunderson, Dylan Hartigan as Pete Kresby, Tom Riis Farrell as Stan Peters, Christopher Evan Welch as Ed Wainwright, as Charmaine Van Sant, Lisa Masters as Carol Wainwright, Jason Kravits as Vic Stevens, Colleen Dunn as Marianne Stevens

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.