"The Stepford Wives"
Directed by Frank Oz.
Written by Paul Rudnick. Based on the book by Ira Levin.
Starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken and
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 6/13/04
From what I
have heard about the novel "The Stepford Wives", it is supposed to
be black comedy to its fullest--an interesting look at what happens
when the men in traditional marriages get sick and tired of being
second fiddle to smarter, more athletic, more successful wives.
The biggest difference, then, between the novel and the latest film
update of the tome is that there is no "black" in the 2004 version
of the comedy.
If this was intentional, it doesn't work, as
the modern update of the novel gives us many funny lines at the
expense of corporate America, or puppies, or Connecticut, but there
is really nothing dark about the happenings in this movie.
Nicole Kidman stars as Joanna, an über-successful TV entertainment
president that is fired from her network job following an
ill-advised pilot on her network. Seeking to make her
newly-deposed wife feel better--and to repair a marriage that is on
the rocks--Joanna's husband Walter (Matthew Broderick, perfectly
cast) moves the family from Manhattan to a small town in Connecticut
called Stepford. After moving into their well-appointed new
mansion, Joanna meets many of the women of Stepford and starts to
realize that something is REALLY whacked out about just how perfect
all of the women seem to be; of course, Walter seems to think things
are perfectly fine, and the twosome try to figure out if staying in
Stepford for life can be a happy medium or not.
Selecting Frank Oz to direct "The Stepford
Wives" might be the thing that seals the fate of the book
translation almost right away; the man directed "Dirty Rotten
Scoundrels" and "Bowfinger", two of my faves over the years because
they are simply hilarious. This whole comedy-with-a-twist
thing, though, is really not his specialty, and so we get a number
of funny quips (one character witnessing a train wreck of a living
room mess: "What, are you making anthrax?") but not a lot of
undertone...for whatever reason, it doesn't feel like anything is
building towards anything else. We get the token funny gay
stereotype, in Roger (Roger Bart), who does lend much to his scenes,
and the loudmouth Bobbie (Bette Midler), the author-wife of a loser
that Joanna spends a lot of her time hangin' with. But, you
don't really like or get into any of them, and since they are the
heroes in this thing, you'd like to have some reason to get into
That never comes. Also, some of the
jokes really fall flat, Christopher Walken is made a non-factor
(rare), and the ending of "The Stepford Wives" feels--like my buddy
Chi "Blow'd Up" Szeto joked afterwards--like a cable puller was
asked to fill in the blanks after the film gets itself in a big
hole. (Director and screenwriter to cable puller: "Hey,
uh, we REALLY need help with our ending...any ideas?") Now,
maybe the ending was like that in the book, but if so, somebody
ought to be shot, because the ending had our theater groaning in
disapproval as folks walked out of the theater. The flipside
of this is that "The Stepford Wives" is very watchable throughout;
it moves quickly, it was impressively shot, the women and their
patterns of movement really do make the spectacle of these women in
action look 100% ridiculous. Also, this film has got one of
the funniest-sounding orgasms in recent film history. For a
PG-13, this is commendable!
Kidman is playing a part here that is good
for those like myself that have begun to suffer from Kidman
Overexposure; her occasionally weak Joanna is well played, and even
slightly believable once she arrives in the Stepford haven...and, it
led to me not quietly hating what a huge star she has become over
the last three years or so. Bart and Broderick do some decent
work, and again, the little one-liners and quips in this film are
occasionally very funny. But overall, I could have done
without "The Stepford Wives", a periodically cool but ultimately
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard