Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:1/2
minor plot points revealed!
Shhhhhhh. I have a secret too- I liked The Stepford Wives but I didn't love it. I like everyone in the movie, except Bette Midler who I hate, but none of them really performed at their best. The story, which we all know, had no big surprises so it was really the characters and the comedy that had to keep the whole thing afloat.
This comedy version of The Stepford Wives, as opposed to the horror (?) version of the original is more of a tribute than a remake. It's like a kitschy John Waters film adapted for the stage and then made back into a movie. Do you need to see it? Not really.
The story this time portrays network TV president Joanna Eberhard at the peak of her reign as she unveils the next seasons line up of reality shows. One such show sends a happily married couple to an island where they are separated and then seduced by prostitutes. At the end of the week the couples are reunited and we see that while the man did not partake of the whores at his disposal, his wife has indulged in a week long orgy and has no plans of returning to her old life. At the share holder press conference the guy who's wife left him shows up and starts shooting at Joanna and everybody else. As a result Joanna is fired and has a nervous breakdown. Her husband, Walter, who also works for the network in a lesser Vice President position leaves as well and they move to Stepford to start over. Once there they quickly see that Stepford is a utopia for the unusually nerdy men but the outrageously beautiful women seem to exist only for their husbands pleasure. We soon find out why and how Stepford works as Walter comes to embrace the lifestyle and Joanna tries to rebel against it.
You probably know the story but just in case you don't I won't spoil any surprises for you. Here's some things I liked about the film. The characters are so rich that they have all basically retired and each lives in a mansion and drives a cool sports car. My favorite part of the movie was looking at the houses. They are big, beautiful and for me, totally distracting. The houses were my favorite part of the movie.
Another fun part was the introduction of a gay couple to the Stepford community. This provided some of the best comedy of the film and the transformation of the flaming "wife" into a gay republican politician was hilarious.
I read a lot about problems with the script, actors and director, Frank Oz, during production but none of that seemed evident in the final film. All the actors did a fine job. I always like Matthew Broderick in just about everything he does. He also doesn't seem to age so it's refreshing to see him. Nicole Kidman is beautiful as always and perfect for the role of a former power executive. Glenn Close who I'm not especially fond of, does probably the best acting in the film as Stepford matron Claire Wellington. I almost always like Christopher Walken and this loopy role as head of the Stepford Men's Association is perfect for him. Jon Lovitz has a fun part as husband to Bette Midler's Bobbie Markowitz but his comedic talents are not put to full use. And finally country singer Faith Hill plays malfunctioning wife Sarah Sunderson.
If you have lots of time and money to go see everything at the multiplex this summer then go ahead and catch The Stepford Wives. It's not very long and it's as enjoyable as a good prime time TV sitcom. I thought it had some funny parts but it's nothing I feel I ever have to watch again.