The Stepford Wives

Review Date:
Director: Frank Oz
Writer: Paul Rudnick
Producers: Donald De Line, Gabriel Grunfeld, Scott Rudin, Edgar Scherick
Nicole Kidman as Joanna
Matthew Broderick as Walter
Christopher Walken as Mike
A powerful businesswoman loses her job and moves to a small, quaint town named Stepford in order to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the big city. With husband and kids in tow, she soon notices a weird trend in her new surroundings, particularly in the women, all of whom are gorgeous and oddly obedient to their husbands’ commands. The men in the town, on the other hand, seem very happy with the situation. A little investigation leads her to uncover one thing: this movie blows.
I was expecting the worst going into this movie, primarily because it didn’t really seem to know what type of picture it wanted to be (drama, comedy, horror, etc…), as well as its very eclectic cast which included everyone from Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman to SNL-veteran Jon Lovitz to serious actress Glenn Close to irritating actress Bette Midler to country crooner Faith Hill to the greatest man in the world: Christopher Walken. The film’s production had also been riddled with “troubles on the set”, which is usually a sign of a director who can’t control the reigns of his own movie. The end result is pretty much what I expected, which is a strange conglomeration of ideas, agendas, themes and tones, some of which work, but many of which simply do not connect and result in a jumbled product that doesn’t really know what it wants to be or say. The film starts off well, with a nice, cutesy set-up and Kidman playing things fittingly over-the-top, but once things hit the actual town of Stepford, I wasn’t sure how to take the film any more with dramatic moments leading into comedic ones leading into out-of-place characters and moments (at one point, three characters sneak into a house and listen to a couple making love??) But the thing that killed this film the most for me was its horrible ending, which felt as though it was written by about 10 people with 10 different messages to convey, ultimately telling us that…uuuhmmm, heterosexual men are bad and women and homosexuals are good? I’m not even sure what it was trying to say, to be honest with you. I do know that Larry King can’t really act well as himself though. I’m also “all good” with gay characters, but the ones in this film just felt out of place, especially since the whole point of the story was the battle between the two sexes, no? The homosexual angle just made it all that less cohesive-not to mention that the one gay character (doing his best Nathan Lane impression) was over-the-top effeminate and not funny whatsoever.

It’s to note that the film was written by Paul Rudnick, the same man who wrote the gay comedies JEFFREY and IN AND OUT (I wonder…is he gay???), ISN’T SHE GREAT starring Bette Midler and Lane and last year’s horribly received MARCI X. I did like both Kidman and Close’s performances though, both of which were charged and ideal for what might’ve been a fun parody flick. Some of the other actors, on the other hand, just added to the problems, particularly Broderick, who came off quite stiff and even bad in a couple of scenes, and Midler, who continues to prove that she isn’t so much an “actress”, as she is an annoying woman who likes to shout in every single part that she plays. And by the way, if every Stepford wife is supposed to be perfect after their “transformation”, why on Earth was Midler still fat and ugly after her change? The film’s final act is its greatest fault though with plot holes jumping through one another in grandness (so are they robots or not? I didn’t see if any of the women being forced to transform, so why do they go along with it? what the heck was that body-double robot doing on the table? does the brotherhood check the operations themselves or allow any new member to do it on their own? can anyone just go into a high-tech room, aimlessly press buttons and affect everyone else accordingly? who is behind the whole thing again?) The fact that everyone in the audience already knew the “secret” behind the town, but had to sit through about an hour of “fluff” before the lead character caught on, likely didn’t help either. In the end, despite a couple of fun performances, an okay first act, a cute opening credit sequence and C. Walken, the film didn’t really provide any hearty laughs, didn’t really provide any thrills/scares and definitely didn’t provide any significant social commentary of substance or sense.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian