The STEPFORD WIVES (2004) Reprint

The STEPFORD WIVES (2004) | Kidman strikes again. [June 8, 2004]

[I felt] as if someone had poured shit in my eyes
-Fernando Croce of
regarding the Stepford Wives (2004)

While I didn’t feel as strongly against the look of the new Stepford Wives, there was no denying its assault on my patience. Unrelentingly annoying humor, seemingly ripped from today’s worst sitcom fare, the film seems tailor made to satisfy the intellects of the world’s lowest common denominator: suburban-housewives addicted to television (aka: S.H.A.T.). Directed by Fozzie Bear himself, the film would be better suited in NBC’s Summer lineup as “Geeks Love Robots” than a remake of the eerie 70’s classic The Stepford Wives.

The elements of the original story are all there, tweaked and updated to suit 21st century sensibilities and family dynamics. Kidman plays a network executive fired from her job as Reality Television Mogul, and moves with her husband to Stepford, Connecticut. There they find a suburban paradise inhabited by the white-collar Caucasian elite; a land of SUV’s, sports cars, big homes, rich geeks and doting housewives with sundresses and bleached teeth. Yup, there’s even a trendy gay couple. But when the Aryan princess Kidman meets up with the town’s oddball Semetic queen (Bette Midler) they start to realize that there’s something dreadfully wrong in Stepford.

But the suspense ends there. Director Frank Oz and screenwriter Paul Rudnick never miss a chance to point out how much hipper they are than their source material. Perpetually pointing out the absurdity of their character’s situations in order to generate cheap laughs rather than spend time creating an honest sense of horror and unease, the team seems to have taken their cues from Kevin Williamson’s Scream trilogy rather than any genuine horror film. But that wouldn’t matter so much if the film were actually funny. Sadly, even if you try to watch the film as a purely comedic entry the pop culture gags it relies on will seem dated within three months.

As far as the acting is concerned, most of the cast merely resort to playing facsimiles of themselves. Kidman performs her trademark mugs for the camera, doing her best to randomize her three takes on surprised, shocked, and perturbed. Christopher Walken does his usual Christopher Walken thing. Jon Lovitz and Bette Midler pretend to be Jewish, while Matthew Broderick pretends to be straight. And Faith Hill is well…blonde. There’s absolutely no performance here that you haven’t seen before.

While many will forget this cipher of a film, I predict that The Stepford Wives will turn out to be a big hit in the box-office, and will no doubt have a long run on the Oxygen channel. Stay at home, save your money, and hopefully some of your sanity. These Stepford Wives aren’t worth the energy.

–Chris Nelson

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