The Stepford Wives

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     Just when you think they have made remade every Hollywood movie, another one reappears. Later this summer, we get The Manchurian Candidate with Denzel Washington in the Frank Sinatra role. Who came up with that casting change?  But this week, it is The Stepford Wives, a remake of the 1975 "classic." The original was a bit of a horror story by Ira Levin, who also wrote Rosemary's Baby, but the new version is strictly played for laughs. The plot of both films is identical although a few things have changed from 1975 to 2004. In the new Stepford Wives, a high powered New York executive (Nicole Kidman) loses her job and has a nervous breakdown. Her husband (Matthew Broderick) moves the family to a little town in Connecticut named Stepford. The town is straight out of the fifties with all the wives (Glenn Close, Faith Hill etc) staying home and devoting themselves to making homes for their husbands. The wives are all statuesque blondes.  The men, who are not that good looking, all hang out at the Men's Club. Only two wives don't seem to fit in, Kidman, who always wears black, and her Jewish neighbor (Bette Midler). In addition, there is a gay couple whose better half joins Kidman and Midler as outcasts. I am not spoiling it for anyone when I reveal that the men of Stepford, led by Mike, short for Microsoft (Christopher Walken), have created sex-robots to replace their dreary wives.

    I have to say that The Stepford Wives was better than I expected. There is no creepiness or horror involved in this new edition. It is comedy all the way and there are some good laughs. It was even better seeing it in Manhattan since there are several jokes about New York and Connecticut which the locals quite liked. The best was when one the "wives" said that only "man-hating Manhattan bitches wear black." It's hard to compare the new version to the old Stepford Wives. since they are done so differently.  Nicole Kidman certainly is an excellent choice for the Katharine Ross role. She is quite funny as the all-black New Yorker out of water.  Bette Midler is in the Paula Prentiss role. They are both good but I still pine a bit for Paula Prentiss. Where is she? Broderick is ok as Kidman's husband but he doesn't get to do much except mug and react to what's going on around him.  Walken overacts excellently as usual. Glenn Close really gets into her role as Ur-wife to the point that she is the only scary thing in the movie. Jon Lovitz does a not so good job of playing himself as Midler's husband.

    It's not clear what this movie has to say about 2004 that is different from 1975. But there is a whole lot more product placement in 2004. There is a gay couple and a Jewish couple in Stepford and they are totally accepted, at least the half that aren't replaced by a robot. But there are no African-Americans. The director is by Frank Oz, best known as the voice of Kermit and Yoda.  The movie moves right along but it isn't clear where it's going.  There is definitely a letdown at the end which is a bit stupid. But then it's all a bit stupid. Luckily, there are enough laughs and Nicole Kidman to bring us through to the "surprise" ending.