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This movie is a perfect example of what is wrong with the state of
movies today. The original was a gem, with excellent acting by
Katharine Ross, Paula Prentiss, and Patrick O'Neal. It was part horror
story, part feminist cautionary tale. Most of all, it was BELIEVABLE!
You got the feeling these were real people, and that all this could
really be happening--and with a minimum of "special effects". The
dialogue was pretty intelligent, the plot twists weren't given away in
the first 15 minutes, and the ending was a real shocker. You cared
about the female characters in the movie--you cared about Joanna's
plight, and rooted for her to escape her planned fate.
The current version could only--and was probably meant to--appeal to the lowest common denominator of movie-goer. In this film, the women are just as bad as the men--you don't give a damn what happens to them; that's how annoying the characters are. The laughs are cheap and lowbrow, vital plot elements of Ira Levin's novel are missing, and the acting is just plain bad.
You know what? I'm getting annoyed just writing about this dreck. If you have any taste, any sense, any feeling for good films, any aversion to wasting good money on bad movies--stay far away from this one!! See the original, and appreciate the stunning subtlety of a thinking person's movie, well-made and well-acted.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I found out they were doing a remake of "The Stepford Wives" while
surfing on IMDb.com, and when I saw the cast, I was intrigued at what
an eclectic bunch they had assembled...Nicole Kidman, Glenn Close,
Christopher Walken, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, John Lovitz
(huh?), and Faith Hill (double, huh?). Given that Lovitz and Midler
were in the mix, I could only assume that they were going to give it a
comedic horror edge...interesting, I thought. This didn't make me rush
to the theater and be the first one in line on opening day, mind you,
but, I did find the prospect interesting. Well, this is proof positive
that a great cast doesn't a wonderful movie make, and that classics
should never be at best remade, and at the very least "tweaked" and
On a recent trip to San Francisco, and with a 5:00 am flight the next day, I thought the best way to spend my final evening is catching up on all those films I didn't see in the cinema. "The Stepford Wives" was available on the hotel movie list, so I thought, "Why not?" When the very first scene involved a "reality TV" exec (Kidman) launching proposed new shows, complete with a Meredith Viera cameo, I knew I was in for an odd night. Still undaunted, I continued watching. What followed was one of the most over-hyped, ludicrous, inconsistent, and down right stupid hour and forty five minutes I've ever wasted. It wasn't funny. It wasn't scary. It wasn't even "Mommie Dearest"-let's-treat-it-as-camp-bad. It wasn't necessary.
Kidman creates one of the most boring and unimaginative characters in recent memory. It just leads me to believe that, Oscar win for "The Hours" or not, the jury is still out on her. Matthew Broderick is completely wasted as her mousey husband who packs the family up and moves them to Stepford. Bette Midler plays the bawdy feminist author with wisecracking husband (John Lovitz) in tow. I can only imagine that the writers thought that their appearance on the screen would be funny enough because NOTHING they said could make me crack a smile. A little bit of John Lovitz goes a long way. You had the token gay couple present, updating "Stepford" to the 21st century...Log Cabin paired with flaming queen...how funny...twenty years ago. If you blinked, you'd have missed Faith Hill. Given this was her big on screen debut, maybe we should just consider her lack of dialogue a gift. Christopher Walken must have an outstanding debt with the studio that produced this disaster...that's the only logical explanation that justifies his presence at all. And Glenn Close...talented and old reliable, Glenn Close...if there is a notable performance in this idea gone awry, it's hers. But, even her quirky performance turns embarrassing when this train wreck finally winds down.
Which leads me to the biggest problem I have...its inconsistency. Are they robots, or are they women with a chip in their head? One simple way to avoid this problem is PICK ONE OR THE OTHER. Don't have a woman spit out money from her mouth like an ATM, or have Faith Hill "blow a fuse" with sparks flying out of her ears in one scene, then follow it with a simple "off" switch making them all normal again. Even with the largest suspension of disbelief available, this is an amateurish plot error that stands out like a Southern Baptist at a bar Mitzvah. It's almost as if they had them be normal at the end because test audiences didn't want to deal with the fact that Bette Midler wasn't going to have anymore screen time once she blew up. It was horrible, and an insult to even the most casual of moviegoers.
I suppose that Hollywood has come to the conclusion that if the cast is big enough, you can feed them whatever trail of dog sick you like once the audience has bought their ticket and sat down. If this is the new trend, then do us all a favor...leave the classics alone. Fire your "writers" and hire a chimpanzee to write the scripts...at least they work for bananas--meaning the price of admission might go down.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The fact that the book actually has a comic undertone indicates that
even when the feminism of the story has dated badly, it could be done
quite well as a wicked, even mean-spirited black comedy of sorts. As a
matter of fact, the great opening montage with its Danny Elfman-like
music and portraits of women in the 50s suggests this is exactly what
it is aiming for: skewering American complacency, Ozzie and Harriet,
and the notion of the Perfect Wife.
For the first hour, we're swiftly introduced to Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman, channeling Faye Dunaway from NETWORK and brilliant at the moment she gets canned from her network for having gone too far with her reality shows) and Walter Kresby (Matthew Broderick, emasculated but not as mean as the novel's version), Bobbie and David Markowitz (Bette Midler, her usual loud self and true to the novel's depiction of the character and Jon Lovitz, also emasculated, a little underwritten), and a gay couple, Roger Bannister (Roger Bart, flamboyant and catty, almost walking away with the movie) and Jerry Harmon (David Marshall Grant, appropriately subdued). We also get to meet the Stepford residents, of which Claire Wellington (Glenn Close) stands out as she maniacally tosses around her 1950s uber-femininity as if her life depends on it and nearly comes off as a drag queen. Claire is married to Mike Wellington (Christopher Walken, playing himself as usual). Other residents include Faith Hill in a small but funny part as a Stepford wife who seems to malfunction quite a bit. This quasi black comedy of manners works well for its setup.
Until the 60 minute mark.
It's then that everything that made the novel work falls apart. Logic goes out the window, the plot supposedly becomes a mystery, and then magically there's a twist at the climactic moment which is only there to please a crowd of people who would not accept the original, ironic ending and one whom no one would have seen coming. When you cop out so openly as this movie does (you can actually feel the exact moment when the story, so far good, punches out and goes into autopilot) you're insulting the public's intelligence. And that's not a good thing to do. It just indicates a high level of laziness usually reserved for cheap exploitation movies or dumbed-down franchise sequels, not for something as high-profile as this.
Ultra modern reworking of Ira Levin's bestseller from the 1970s (and the 1975 film counterpart starring Katharine Ross) about Connecticut suburb filled with perky, beautiful housewives and their boorish, piggy husbands. Nicole Kidman is very good as the newcomer in town whose husband (a rather stolid Matthew Broderick) immediately joins the Men's Association. Abandoning the sly dark humor of the original movie, this rather bombastic--and brief--92 minute version shows heavy signs of post-production tinkering. There are all sorts of things wrong with this movie, starting with the obvious hedging-of-bets pertaining to the mystery behind the wives (which might've been wildly successful if the filmmakers had just stuck to their original vision); Kidman's children disappear at camp, are brought home (off-camera), and then disappear again; one Stepford bunny coughs up money--exactly how is this done according to Christopher Walken's "home movie" near the finish? But the worst is saved for last, when an outlandish twist leads to the kind of teeth-grinding, Larry King-cameoed ending that undermines director Frank Oz's ability to even work on a movie much less direct one. Some of the cartoonish humor (though over-the-top) is entertaining and colorful, and the movie's first 45 minutes are good, but the thicker the plot gets, the more ridiculous the film becomes. *1/2 from ****
Standing alongside The Wicker Man as the worst remake ever this really
is a pile of utter nonsense. The original had a good story to tell but
this one is just a joke.
Nicole Kidman would seem to be the perfect choice for a robotic woman, I've never seen her show any emotions whatsoever. You can't really blame the cast, the script is so poor that even the best actor would struggle to convey any meaning in their lines.
The studio weren't too happy with the downbeat ending so ordered a change, and then another, and then another. This ensured that this movie has a happy smiley ending and the fact that it makes NO SENSE whatsoever didn't seem to worry them because in their minds we the viewers are basically vegetables that just need to be exposed to some flickering images for about an hour and a half.
An entire army of producers cut this one up and made an absolute mess of it, it's barely even a proper film let alone a coherent story. You know what's really frightening though? It still gets a 5 star rating (at the time of writing) so most people think this trash is average.
Even for bad movie fans there's just nothing to enjoy, the whole film is atrocious and the fact that it is a remake of a good film just plunges the knife in deeper. Deserves a spot in the bottom 100.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I despise this movie. Most bad movies I simply dislike. Plot: Interesting concept, could have been fruitful, but wasn't. Script: There were two funny scenes, the rest was boring. For the record though, the audience (though not many in number) seemed to laugh a lot. Generally, the script was passable. Still, after the first half, every minute seemed like five to me. Acting: Broderick and Close really didn't do a good job. It was just sub-standard for a professional actor. Editing: I could actually see where they had cut some scenes together. You know, where a person is standing still and their image suddenly shifts sideways. Now, for the real kicker, the one thing that gets my blood hot. Continuity: This movie committed one of the unforgivable sins of the big screen: Mutually Exclusive Realities. Without providing spoilers, I'll say that the movie entertained one reality for the purpose of the body of the film, and changed that reality for the convenience of the end of the film. This was the cherry on the sundae. Oh my. It was so bad. 3/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
...on which it fails. (MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)
The story: It makes absolutely no sense (as some others have pointed out, this is due to the re shooting of the end to make it more palatable to the average sissy audience). But I realize that if they had tried to stay conform with the new ending then they would have to take out ALL the visual gags. Now, I am not a huge fan of making everything air-tight logical, but what they wanted the audience to swallow here in contradictions makes star wars seem like a factual documentary in comparison. So why make a write off even more of a write off by adding a non-fit ending? I don't know. What can you do when the story falls apart? In what types of movies can you just sit back an ignore logic errors? A screwball comedy? A kill-fest? A psycho-nightmare? A super hero movie? None of these surface, so we are stuck with a terribly written movie (that had an ultra-thin story to begin with) trying to take itself seriously.
The humour: There was barely any. A shot at AOL here, and pun on Microsoft there. A bit of over-the-top depiction of a conservative's wet dream. Not nearly enough to make this a 'fun' picture.
The suspense: There is none. The entire story is evident after the 'square dance scene' (15 minutes into the picture) - and I hadn't seen any trailers nor the original. BTW: That isn't square dance what they are doing - but I digress (I was young, I needed the money ;-) ).
Actors: Bette Middler did surprisingly well. Although she usually gets on my nerves she plays an attitude similar to her role in 'ruthless people' -something which suits her. All others looked bored out of their skulls. Kidman? Lets not go there. She's just not an actress. How she ever got a leading role I'll never understand. Brodderick has had better days, as had Loviz. Glen Close? I almost felt sorry for her, having to deliver that totally contrived ending monologue full of contradictions. I have to applaud her for getting A MILLION VOLTS THROUGH HER LIPS AND NOT EVEN A SMUDGE MARK TO SHOW FOR IT. The 'plan' she has does exactly the opposite of what she wanted to do from the very start. Sheesh, They must have fired the continuity guy/girl after the first day and forgotten to refill the job. Walken? He was OK, but I have seen him MUCH better. I hope he loses that 'I shat my pants'-walk. It looks like Jack Palance in his last movies. Maybe it's the same medical condition?
The computer graphics: Texture mapped boxes without shadows or depth as houses? Puhleeese. I could do better on my laptop in half an hour. The robot-dog looked ridiculous.
Resume: 2 out of 10 (because I actually sat through it. The movie DOES hat a good point going for it! At 93 minutes it is mercifully short.
I very rarely write comments here about films I didn't enjoy but this is different. This film boasts a cast that will be pulling people in cinemas. My advice is: don't bother. It's just the most boring, predictable, badly planned and executed piece of celluloid I've ever seen. It's as if Frank Oz had a good idea but got bored half-way through realising it. I haven't seen the original but surely the actors who got involved in this read the script of the remake? They can't have based their participation on the Seventies film, surely. Because the 2004 remake is full of awful cliches, bad jokes (OK, there are a couple of good lines but that's about it) and it is so empty of ideas that it makes you want to shout to the screen. If the actors playing in this film were unknowns there is NO WAY anyone would have gone to see it. It's just a parade of famous names (some good actors, some average) that sleepwalk through a dreadful script. It can't even become a cult classic - it's THAT average. 1/10 for me and that's being lenient.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ira Levin's cautionary novel, "The Stepford Wives", was a fascinating
fable of the ultimate male backlash to feminism; in 1975, director
Bryan Forbes turned the novel into a chilling variation of "Invasion of
the Body Snatchers", as innocent wives are substituted by zombie-like
robots, their husbands bonding in a smugly evil male cult. Unsettling
and ambiguous, the fate of the actual women is left to the viewer's
imagination, making it far more frightening than a pat resolution would
This concept was apparently lost on Paramount, DreamWorks, and Frank Oz, who wavered between camp and black comedy heavy-handedness, in this 2004 remake. Scripted by Paul Rudnick, the women are no longer normal, sympathetic wives, but high-powered execs, with apparent agendas against men, and husbands little more than doorstops. Their fate, to become blond-haired sex-slave bimbos locked in 'June Cleever' mode, while their idiot spouses adjust their breast sizes by remote control, and swap the wives for favors, demeans both men and women, and even offers an out-of-place jab at homosexuals, as a funny gay spouse is turned into a right-wing religious zealot politician (how an openly gay couple would ever be even allowed in this community is ignored).
While spoofing the earlier film isn't, in itself, a bad idea, no one involved in this project apparently had a clear vision of what they were aiming at, so continuity and logic are sadly missing. As other critics have rightly noted, the status of the wives waivers between being robots and being micro-chipped and brainwashed humans, making the Nicole Kidman 'template' body, and finale 'revelation' of community leader Christopher Walken's actual status as ridiculous as an ATM-spewing wife, and remote controls to adjust emotional responses and breast sizes, labeled, conveniently, with each wife's name. All the pretty, golden-hued settings, and Matthew Broderick's emergence as a 'good guy with a heart' who saves the day can't compensate for the quagmire of a plot.
The real shame of it all is that the potential for a good film hovers over the proceedings, just out of reach, and some really fine performances are all for naught. Glenn Close gives a strangely sympathetic twist to the film's villain, Walken is the most engaging (and youthful) he's been in years, Bette Midler and Roger Bart are both hilarious, Jon Lovitz is at his silly best, and Nicole Kidman again proves herself more than adept at comedy, and portraying American women. Matthew Broderick seems to be making a career of playing milquetoast males (Ferris Bueller, where are you?), and for 'eye and ear candy', nothing can quite match Country music sex symbol Faith Hill's orgasmic moans, and cup-size changes. All this, lost in a truly misguided film.
What a waste!
The original film, and the great novel that preceded it are worthy of a
better treatment than this lighthearted, anti-suspenseful, Hollywood
variety show. What's more, the excellent veteran cast, the catchy
soundtrack and the expensive production values could have made this
into the socially serious, poignant and yet funny contemporary
masterwork it should have been. Instead, we are left with a film whose
campiest moments are clichés and whose point seems to be love conquers
all - even the sexism, genderism and masculocentrism still rampant in
American Society today! I never expect comedies to do a particularly
good job with continuity and logic, but some of the continuity problems
in this film are really pretty amazing. Plot twists are, after all,
supposed to change the COURSE of the plot, not its basic premises. I'm
dying to tell you about it, but I won't write a spoiler.
Here are the basics: Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick are a successful couple whose marriage has been suffering a bit because of the stress of their work-lives. Nicole, a TV executive famous for post-feminist male-bashing shows gets fired for no particular reason and they couple decides to move away to Stepford, an exclusive community populated by people who seem to have no particular troubles of any kind, or even jobs for that matter. Some of the first things Matthew Broderick realizes about Stepford is that all of the women are beautiful, and everybody is marvelously happy with a few possible exceptions - his own wife, Bette Midler and a gay liberal whose partner has been sucked into republicanism. Predictably, these three conspire to resist the happiness all around them and investigate the mystery of the Stepford men's club.
I've described the first quarter of the film. Although the central plot is interesting and strong, the lack of even a shred of seriousness detracts very heavily from it - even from a comedic point of view. If this film hadn't made me disinterested, the feminist in me would have simply been angry over the missed opportunity this film represents. Moreover, it is possible to see this film as a justification of the 'blame the victim' mentality so often prevalent in contemporary culture.
Most of the cast seems equally unengaged. They sometimes seem to be playing roles in different films - interacting with each other poorly and playing their roles with no particular goal in mind. I can only fault the director here. Broderick and Kidman are, as usual, very watchable, but even Nicole seems to be unsure what her character is supposed to be portraying at times. Bette Midler is fine, as are Walken and Glenn Close. Close was actually, IMO, the show stealer - making the film tolerable with her excruciatingly irritating and very dominant presence.
While not a complete travesty, I can not recommend The Stepford Wives.
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