Cast: Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Christopher
Walken, Glenn Close, Jon Lovitz, Roger Bart, Faith Hill
Director Frank Oz claims this remake of
the 1975 horror film is intended to be comedy and
suspense, which is something of puzzlement because
there’s not an iota of tension but a whole
lot of laughs. The result is a summer film as light
and as colorful as a hot pink chiffon hoop skirt
High-powered television executive Joanna (Kidman)
and her pasty-faced husband Walter (Broderick)
head to Stepford, Connecticut after a nut fires
a gun at Joanne while she’s addressing an
audience of industry insiders. The nut, it seems
was one of Joanna’s contestants from a reality
show entitled “I Can Do Better.” The
nut’s wife, it appears, has abandoned their
Nebraska marriage for group sex with exotic bodybuilders.
Deciding that gun-wielding nuts are a wakeup call,
Joanna and Walter change their lives. With their
kids in the backseat, they head out of New York
City and into the exclusive, upscale community of
Their new up-to-date suburban mansion has all the
latest amenities, as shown to them by an oddly old-fashioned
real estate agent (Close) who wears a stiff
starched skirt and has a permanent smile plastered
on her face. This is the first clue that in Stepford
something unusual is afoot, but Joanna is a little
slow on the uptake. She only starts to get the hint
at the subsequent Fourth of July picnic. Surrounded
by super-friendly women in crisp, bright floral
prints, Joanna, outfitted in a smart black dress,
befriends the only people who look like her—the
darkly dressed and disheveled Bobbie Markowitz (Midler)
and Roger (Bart), a wise-cracking gay guy
with a Gucci obsession. The sardonic threesome all
compare notes and realize indeed something is wrong
with their new community. The women are too chipper,
their houses are immaculate, and they have great
sex with their husbands in the middle of the day.
Joanna attempts to figure an explanation for this
seemingly odd behavior, but one by one her friends
fall victim to the strange behavior. Plump Bette
Midler frankly steals The Stepford Wives
away from lanky Kidman with her about-face performance.
Her conversion from a barking, brash, best-selling
author into a blond, cookie-baking, buxom housewife
is nothing short of hilarious. Yet director Frank
Oz and screenwriter Paul Rudnick have no
interest in exploring the battle of the sexes. The
original Stepford film had sinister tones
of antifeminism, but this updated version shies
away from any heavy-hitting social commentary and
instead goes for a fluffy reminder that diversity
is good and conformity is not.
It’s obvious Oz and Rudnick are aiming for
something other than a Faludian backlash or taking
aim at suburban conformity and the quest for an
immaculate lawn. Instead the point is that’s
okay to be different and imperfect. This watered-down
topic renders The Stepford Wives useless
as any sort of really interesting summer film, though,
to his credit, one suspects Rudnick never had the
intention of trying to be anything but funny. But
even at that, the underlying message of the film
is undone by the performance of the perfect Ms.
Kidman. When Joanna seems to fall victim to the
strange malady affecting Stepford women, one gets
the sense Kidman is having too good of a time. Sauntering
up and down the grocery store aisle with a sex kitten
glint in her eyes, Kidman seems to be enjoying herself
as the ideal blond woman. It’s hard to make
the audience believe Stepford suffers from a terrible
social disease when it looks like blonds really
do have more fun. Thus The Stepford Wives
is highly polished Hollywood pabulum in top form,
mildly entertaining but lacking in any real content
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...