absolutely loathed remakes that simply copied their source material until I
saw this version of The Stepford Wives. It makes that style of
updating seem not so bad.
Frank Oz’s rendition of the 1975 hit, which
starred Katherine Ross, is a different movie than the original. Not just
different in terms of tone and storytelling, but different in terms of plot.
A new twist has been added to the ending and the old characters are barely
recognizable here. Originality is usually splendid in a remake, but in this
one, it’s a death sentence. The story of The Stepford Wives was done
in the only way it could’ve been the first time. Changing its dark mix of
horror and humor into a satirical, tongue-in-cheek, cutesy eye-roller was
one terrible idea.
Paul Rudnick’s screenplay feels like a rejected
take on the old treatment. What makes it even more of a failure is the fact
that those who have embodied his work are qualified people. Who would’ve
guessed that one day Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Glen
Close, and Christopher Walken would find themselves trying their very
hardest in a downright clumsy picture together? Their best efforts are what
allow The Stepford Wives to graze the lands of mediocrity, instead of
forcing it to permanently reside with Satan in hell. The five actors even
provide some comedic spice and witty originality to the story, occasionally.
Close, in particular, has worked wonders with the dead and dreary script.
Kidman plays Joanna Eberhart, the main character,
who has been transformed into a television network executive in this recent
edition. When all her shows are cancelled, because a former contestant on
one of them led a killing spree, as a result of the emotional damage the
program caused him, Joanna and her family decide to escape from the city.
She; her husband Walter (Broderick), whose last name has, for some reason,
been changed to Kresby; and their two kids decide on Stepford, Connecticut
as a place of relocation. It is one of the few cities, completely free of
crime and poverty in the nation. Here, the women act perfectly and look
flawless. The only person Joanna can truly befriend is Bobbi Markowitz
(Midler), an average hippie, and the author of many acclaimed books. But
after awhile, even Bobbi is lost to perfection, and thing’s become more than
just a little freaky. Joanna discovers that all of the women in Stepford are
actually robots, programmed by their spouses at the local men’s club, and
she’s their next target for machine-transformation.
Needless substitutions of many features of the
original flick ensue in The Stepford Wives. For example, some of the
best scenes in the original film were Joanna’s sessions with her
psychiatrist, which she began seeing after feeling unsafe as a result of the
neighboring women’s strange behavior. These are nowhere to be found in the
updated version. Taking their place is a new character, named Roger (Roger
Bannister), who is, of course, a homosexual. He’s not interesting, serving
as a mere stereotype utilized without any creativity. In addition, the
suspenseful mood of the first film is now replaced by a thoroughly annoying
one. Director Oz’s work is far too showy for its own good, boasting some
sort of retro feel, which he clearly thinks enhances the movie’s content.
All it does, though, is contribute to the already unbearable cheese-factor,
making the project far more atrocious than pleasant.
I suppose The Stepford Wives will come
across as completely harmless fun on cable television in a year or so, but
it certainly doesn’t merit a theatre trip. Stupidity is abundant in every
corner of it, and is not only evident in the work of the director and the
writer, but the subject matter, as well. Its predecessor wasn’t just
supposed to be funny; it also had a bit of a social significance, in
addition to both humor and horror. How strange that this one is billed as a
comedy, but it manages to be a lot less amusing than the earlier edition
was. It is simply a dopey and unnecessary flick, harmless in its intentions,
but incredibly flawed in its execution.
-Danny, Bucket Reviews (6.11.2004)
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