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The Stepford Wives

Comedy movie directed by Frank Oz

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Oz Needed Some Stepford Wives to Edit His Film

  • Jun 18, 2004
  • by
Pros: Bette Middler, Roger Bart, funny moments

Cons: some logic problems, Broderick seems lost, not scathing enough

The Bottom Line: I've got a secret I've been hiding under my skin/ My heart is human, my blood is boiling, my brain I.B.M. - Styx - "Mr. Roboto"

Although Frank Oz’s remake of the 1975 Stepford Wives film is set in the present day, the setting and tone are confused as he transforms the thriller into a dark comedy. Some thirty years later, many men still feel threatened by powerful career women, but I felt that the feminist themes in Oz’s Stepford Wives struggled to remain relevant. Stepford Wives has several hilarious jokes and a couple of priceless scenes, but the film overall is a mess.

Apparently, the filmmakers changed a few fundamental facts after the initial shooting but didn’t go back to edit some of the earlier scenes, so Stepford Wives suffers from some major internal consistency problems. However, if you can ignore the things that don’t make sense and focus on each individual scene, you’ll have a blast with this film.

After Joanna Eberhard (Nicole Kidman) has a nervous breakdown, her husband Walter Kresby (Matthew Broderick) whisks the family away to Stepford, Connecticut where 1954 meets 2015. The perfect, robotic wives of Stepford, led by Claire Wellington (Glenn Close) spend their lives trying to please their husbands. They wear heels and dresses to exercise and are always more cheerful than flight attendants. Constantly baking and fetching drinks for their husbands, the Stepford wives are a cross between Betty Crocker and a Playboy bunny. The husbands in Stepford, on the other hand, can be described as average at best. Jon Lovitz lives there, for goodness sake! So, how did they end up with such bombshell wives? Through the miracles of modern and (Oz’s perception of) future technology (not all of which makes sense, of course, but … whatever…)

Acknowledging one of the evils of modern day middle class life, everyone in town drives a giant, silver SUV. Looking forward (more inconsistencies in terms of setting and tone), families have robotic dogs and refrigerators that automatically tell people that they are out of milk or juice. Joanna is horribly out of place in her Manhattan black outfits. She finds it difficult to make the transition from executive to stay-at-home mom, and makes thousands of cupcakes for her children (who are conspicuously absent from the second half of the film) to make up for her emotional negligence.

But don’t feel too sorry for Joanna. As the president of a television station, she hasn’t hit the glass ceiling, and she’s calculating and greedy. She creates those mean-spirited, life-ruining kind of reality TV shows that FOX is so famous for. In an early scene, we see Mike White ( Chuck and Buck, The Good Girl, School of Rock) get screwed over yet again. In fact, ironically, Joanna is more of a robot in Manhattan than she is in Stepford where she becomes friends with the town’s two other misfits -- author Bobbi Markowitz (Bette Middler, who is by far the highlight of the film) and openly gay Roger Bannister (Roger Bart). The scene of the Stepford book club discussing Christmas decorations rather than literature and Bobbi’s comments about Judaism are hysterical. I loved Bobbi’s irreverence and Roger’s flamboyance. When the movie was over, my first reaction was that I wanted them to be my friends. People familiar with the Northeast US will also appreciate the jokes about New York and Connecticut.

Oz and co. update the original film with a few twists, most of which defy logic, the biggest of which is that Stepford features a gay couple. Their relationship is a bit stereotypical with Jerry (David Marshall Grant) as the straight-acting “husband” and Roger as the effeminate, fashion-conscious “wife,” but this modernization worked well. Jerry and Roger move to Stepford after entering couples’ therapy because Roger is horrified that Jerry has become (*gasp!*) a gay Republican.

The filmmakers go for comedy rather than suspense in this remake, but there are a few tense moments inside the Men’s Society building, and Christopher Walken as the men’s leader Mike Wellington is suitably creepy. The casting in Stepford Wives, especially the welcome return of Bette Middler to the silver screen, is brilliant. Kidman seems a tad uneasy as a New York power suiter, but she really shines after her suburban transformation. I found Broderick’s Walter to be vacant and boring, but I think that’s more a function of the screenplay than Mr. Sarah Jessica Parker’s acting. Playing a robot is no stretch at all for Faith Hill, and Jon Lovitz has no problems portraying a fat slob.

The costumes, lighting, and camera angles are reminiscent of Douglas Sirk’s grand filmmaking style. While not quite as stunning as Far From Heaven, Stepford Wives is beautiful to look at. The Fourth of July square dancing scene and the ball near the end are especially lush.

I was expecting biting satire from Stepford Wives, but it’s not quite dark enough for that. Fortunately, I was able to enjoy it for what it is -- a light, summer comedy that could use a little tidying up from a Stepford wife of its own.


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More The Stepford Wives reviews
Quick Tip by . September 16, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Had fun watching this on TV yesterday. It's entertaining as well as good scripting. A movie that may appear silly at first but highly intellectual and interesting for the ending. Great cast!
review by . August 30, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Frank Oz's eagerly awaited comedy/thriller remake of THE STEPFORD WIVES turned out to be a great big fizzer when it was released in the summer of 2004. Whilst it does pale in comparison to the earlier 1975 Bryan Forbes film (based on the controversial Ira Levin novel), I believe that the remake of STEPFORD WIVES still has the ability to stir debate and argument about the delicate balance of power in married relationships.    When hard-driven TV executive Joanna Eberhart (Nicole …
review by . January 05, 2005
Once again Nicole Kidman has proven to the world that you don't have to be that talented to be a big success. Ever since "Moulin Rouge" and "The Hours," people have been gushing about how glamorous and great Kidman is. Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but if it weren't for Tom Cruise, we probably would have never heard of her. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed her in "The Others," but none of her other movies have ever made me breathless or cry.    "The Stepford Wives" …
review by . November 11, 2004
THE STEPFORD WIVES is a funky outing that takes to task the dumbing down of the wealthy class. While everyone knows the plot of the original book and 1975 movie, few will recognize the parody that Frank Oz has created. Everything is over-the-top, including performances by such actors as Nicole Kidman, Glenn Close, Matthew Broderick, Jon Lovitz, Roger Bart and Christopher Walken - each of whom seems to be out to do parodies of their usual 'roles'. But if you like movies like Practical Magic and Rat …
review by . June 14, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Some good acting and laughs.     Cons: Week second half, Broderick is very bland.     The Bottom Line: While it has some laughs, the film drags in parts and sputters to a finish.     In suburban America of the 50’s, the ideal family was one that conformed to the standards of the community and knew their neighbors well. Such families were hard working and took part in social events in the community and were often ready to lend …
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About this movie


An all-star cast remakes the 1975 socio-political horror flick,The Stepford Wives. After being fired as president of a television network, Joanna (Nicole Kidman,Moulin Rouge) has a nervous breakdown, prompting her husband Walter (Matthew Broderick,Election) to take her to a simple Connecticut town called Stepford to recuperate. But Stepford is a little strange: The schlubby husbands congregate at a closed-doors men's club, while the wives--all in bright summer frocks and air-brushed smiles--exercise to keep their hourglass figures and cook endless pastries. Joanna, along with new arrivals Bobbie (Bette Midler,Beaches) and Roger (the very funny Roger Bart), soon discover that the mastermind of Stepford (Christopher Walken,Communion) has used cybernetics to "perfect" womankind.The Stepford Wiveshas some satirical zingers (from sneaky screenwriter Paul Rudnick,Addams Family Values), but the basic idea has lost a lot of gas since 1975. Also featuring Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction).--Bret Fetzer
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Director: Frank Oz
Genre: Comedy
Screen Writer: Paul Rudnick, Ira Levin
DVD Release Date: November 9, 2004
Runtime: 93 minutes
Studio: Paramount
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