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Nicole Kidman is overjoyed
at finding the missing shard
of the dark crystal
Review written by: Alex Sandell
The scariest thing about this "thriller" was pulling into my driveway after attending the screening. I looked over to my neighbor's perfectly manicured lawn. Their newly painted house and white-picket fence. It was then that my suspicions were confirmed: I live next to a dislocated Stepford couple!
Suddenly, I appreciated the hideous "privacy" fence they put up to shield them from the outside world (and make one side of my driveway look like a cheap plastic Millennium Falcon wall). I knew that I needed protection from their robot asses as much as they needed to shield themselves from the dangers of a man that occasionally goes a couple of days without shaving, looking vaguely similar to a *gasp* homeless person!
In an attempt to prove that I really lived next to a Stepford couple, I snuck around their privacy fence and past the ADT Security System they had installed, just in case the white-picket fence ever failed to properly keep reality from breaking into their 1950's existence, and snapped a couple of pictures. Look at the evidence, and you decide.
My neighbor's white-picket fence (and ADT product-placement):
My neighbor's wife:
I don't know how I went all these years without noticing the flashlight eyes or lack of skin. Maybe it's the same way Paramount and Dreamworks managed to turn a blind eye to the fact that one of the shittiest (or, as my neighbors would ask me to say: "super-duper dumbest") remakes in history was being created right under their noses. The Stepford Wives stinks.
The nuclear family died along with the cold war and the cutting-edge message of the original book and film has gone as dull as that infamous clip of Reagan asking Gorbachev to "tear down this wall." Because of this, a gay couple is added into the 2004 mix. They don't further the message or modernize the story, but in the hands of director Frank Oz (Bowfinger, In & Out) and screenwriter Paul Rudnick (Addam's Family Values, Marci X), they do make a silly, fashion-cautious cartoon pair. Ah, stereotypes... it's so 21st Century.
The new Stepford Wives is supposed to be funny... sometimes. The film goes from very broad comedy to serious drama every five minutes, never able to settle down with a filmmaking technique long enough for audience members to decide if it's the drama that sucks, or the comedy. Usually, it's both. With a few biting jabs taken at AOL, the state of Connecticut and a famous Bette Midler tune, the movie does have an edge in the comedy department. It fails completely as a thriller and as a character piece.
The character motives in the film don't make any sense. One moment, Walter Kresby (Matthew Broderick) is so in love with his wife that he quits his job at the network that fired her and moves her to a beautiful house in Connecticut. The next, he's walking out the door saying, "it's over." Did any earth-shattering events happen to justify this odd change in behavior? None. We discover that Walter feels inadequate next to his wife, much in the way Tom most likely felt standing next to the more talented and versatile Nicole. We also find out that they haven't had sex in a year (and what guy wouldn't want a divorce after twelve months of masturbation?). But this is all revealed after the "dramatic" divorce scene.
Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman), once a top network exec (the hardest working "person" in television), is fired after her latest reality show ends up causing the death of some of the contestants (by gunshot). She gets a few laughs by acting catatonic, and then the screenwriter gets bored with that idea and has her talking again, without letting the audience know how she healed (electroshock is mentioned). Then he gets bored with her acting like a normal woman, so he has Walter threaten divorce. She responds by saying she'll change. She then acts EXACTLY like a Stepford wife, even though she hasn't been turned into one.
Joanna starts wearing 1950's dresses, cleans compulsively and makes about 5,000 cupcakes (which made me extremely hungry, and had me cursing Atkins). Later in the film, one of the guys at the Stepford men's club asks Walter if he really thinks Joanna will change, without becoming a cyborg. Walter responds by saying, "I think she will." Uh, hasn't she already? How many cupcakes does it take, Walter?
But if the audience doesn't like the new version of Joanna, they need not worry -- she'll be back to her old self shortly. And then she'll change again. And then she'll change back. MY GOD, WOULD SOMEBODY GET THE PERSON WHO WROTE THIS MOVIE SOME FRIGGIN' RITALIN?!?
The Toxic Avenger III: The Last Temptation of Toxie had a better structured plot than the one for the new Stepford Wives. Playboy's Wet & Wild: Slippery When Wet had better character development. How did they ever get Nicole Kidman to sign on for this one? Mathew Broderick? Glenn Close? Bette Midler? Christopher Walken? I can't even picture Jon Lovitz looking at this screenplay and jumping onboard. Well, maybe Jon Lovitz...
And that's what The Stepford Wives has: a group of talented actors and Jon Lovitz. The actors are game for all the stupid crap they're asked to do. The standout is Glenn Close. Even though you can see all the jokes in this film coming from a mile away, she delivers them in a punchy manner that wipes the nearly perpetual scowl off of your face, every time she appears on the screen. Nicole Kidman is playing a part a little too bubbly for her own good. She comes off as a retarded version of the TV personality she played in To Die For. Bette Midler doesn't do anything special, but she's given the best lines in the film. Matthew Broderick is wasted in the same way he almost always is when he isn't on Broadway. Christopher Walken is exactly as you would expect him to be, only delivering worse lines. Faith Hill has a small part and does okay, but her music still bites. Jon Lovitz is Jon Lovitz, and that's really too bad.
The movie recreates the shopping scene from the original Stepford Wives, almost perfectly. The only difference is the thousands of product placements added to this version (who knew robotic wives were programmed to always have product labels facing the camera?). But, unlike the first, the movie doesn't stop with the women doing the grocery shopping. It's self-assured enough to kick out a number of preposterous twist endings. I won't spoil any of the "surprises" for you, but they're so startling similar to a bad episode of Scooby-Doo, it won't take much thought to solve the mystery before the "meddling kids."
This film's nothing but an extended Saturday Night Live skit doing a bad job at parodying the original Stepford Wives. You'll laugh a couple times, but you'd have the same reaction watching a random sitcom at home, free of charge. If Frank Oz ever gets the urge to make another movie about controlling women, he should go back to Miss Piggy.
Now, about those neighbors of mine...
Has anyone heard of a Stepford relocation program?
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