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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The Stepford Wives

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Judy Thorburn

The Stepford Wives

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Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

“THE STEPFORD WIVES” - NEW, BUT NOT IMPROVED

For those of you movie fans who remember the 1975 film version of Ira Levin’s book, The Stepford Wives that starred a young and beautiful Katherine Ross, my advice is to put all your preconceived notions about this new remake aside.  For one thing, if you are expecting another dramatic and chilling sci fi thriller, forget it. The older movie was a serious, darker view on male control. But, this version, starring Nicole Kidman, is more of a reworking of the basic idea, but goes in an altogether different direction. Director Frank Oz and writer Paul Rudnick deliver an uneven satirical farce that relies on the traditional view of how powerful, successful woman are seen as a threat to the male ego.  Sure, there are a couple of amusing scenes and funny one liners, but for the most part this flick has trouble keeping its focus about halfway through.

According to 2004’s Stepford husbands, they have resolved their “spouse” problem with a quick fix.   If they can’t change their wives behavior, then create the perfect robotic model according to their specifications. It’s that simple. Or so it seems, until a new couple move to town.

Nicole Kidman, as Joanna Eberhart, is no subservient housewife.  She’s a successful, powerful TV network-programming executive who loses her job when one of her reality series goes a little too far ending in tragedy. So, to help her recover from a breakdown, Joanna’s husband, Walter (a lackluster, Matthew Broderick) decides to quit his Vice President position at the same network and uproot his family to, what appears to be, a safe and beautiful community in Stepford, Connecticut and start a new life. That is, until Joanna can’t help but notice that something is not right in this suburban paradise.

All the women look like and act like brainless Barbi dolls, gorgeous face, perfect figure and wardrobe to match.  And, their only meaning in life appears to be pleasing their husband’s every desire from keeping a spotless house to working it in the bedroom. That seems fine with Walter, who quickly joins the Men’s Association, led by the very manly Mike Wellingon (Christopher Walken), where all the husbands in town spend their time drinking beer, smoking cigars and drooling over their sex kitten wives.

Realizing all the women are “flight attendant friendly”, Joanna becomes more suspicious that something is very wrong when, during the town square dance, Sara (Faith Hill) swirls out of control and collapses with sparks shooting from her ears.  With the help of new friends and fellow residents, Jewish feminist author, Bobbi Markowitz (always hilarious Bette Midler) and flamboyantly gay architect, Roger (very funny Roger Bart), she sets out to uncover the hidden truth about the Stepford wives. Only, it’s not too long before Joanna sees a “change” in her cohorts, and knows she is next.

While this retelling makes an attempt at a new spin on the utmost chauvinist dream, rumored problems in production are evident in that the final cut is unbalanced and illogical.   It is unclear as to what these new and improved model wives really are. The explanation about robotic versions with implanted brain chips don’t match with some of the sequences, especially in the final scene. Weren’t the editors or people hired for continuity doing their job? Or couldn’t the filmmakers make up their mind on what they wanted?

Kidman has one good scene in the opening sequence, but her supporting cast are scene stealers including Bette and Bart who supply the laughs and Glenn Close as the town’s first lady, Claire Wellington, Mike’s wife, who takes the June Cleaver-like 1950’s era female behavior to a whole new level.

This take on the Stepford Wives could have been a better movie, but as is, it is filled with imperfections.  I don’t have a problem with it going the comedic route. But, at least give it some bite as a social commentary if the issue being exploited is the balance of power between men and women.  That, and the sum of its parts, is like these high tech robotic wives.  New and prettier too look at, but most definitely not an improvement over the original, when it comes to the “heart” of the subject.