Published Jun 01, 2004It's not supposed to be funny you know, this satire of gender roles and social manners first brought to the screen in 1975 (from the book by Ira Levin). But this update by director Frank Oz (Bowfinger, In & Out) showcases a network of slapsticky good ol' boys will be boys who can't control their much more powerful wives. So instead of bucking up and being men, the instead fall back on that other staple of insecure boys: their toys. By harnessing the power of their nerdy brains, the men of Stepford a gated community in Connecticut turn their smart, successful, sophisticated wives into robot slaves. Literally.
Upon entering Stepford, Walter Kresby (Matthew Broderick) and Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) can't help but wonder if something isn't up with the too-perfect residents of their new community. With only some perfunctory investigating, Eberhart (a deposed TV executive) discovers that all the women around her have been replaced by compliant 1950s photocopies of what a perfect woman should be. Meanwhile, husband Walter is being seduced by the sense of power (and nostalgia) that being in charge brings him.
The Stepford Wives should be a horror movie, not a breezy social commentary after all, what's more disturbing than technologically capturing your spouse in a limbo of blank, mindless servitude. Not only do the men of Stepford (who include Jon Lovitz and Christopher Walken) not seem to mind, they're like pigs in a velvet-lined humidor of shit. But the problem with the film is that the real women Kidman's Eberhart and Bette Midler as her best friend, a writer named Bobbi Markowitz are so irritating and annoying, one almost wishes they could be more like robots, like the one played with a broad smile and blank stare by country music star Faith Hill.
And so we should be horrified, but aren't our outrage is directed only at the team that managed to take such a great cast (including Glenn Close too!) and a perfectly chilling premise ripe for satire (suburban wife robots!) and made it into a campy, incoherent, unsympathetic and unfunny mess. (Paramount)