The Stepford Wives (2004) – Frank Oz

 

Sigh.

You’d think that a film boasting the likes of Frank Oz behind the camera, and Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken, Bette Midler, Jon Lovitz, Glenn Close and Matthew Broderick in front would constitute a better film. But you can tell just by the casting that the film is slipping away from the dark conformist overtones of the original novel and film to play up the comedic angle.

I would have skipped it to be honest, but it was next on the list in the Sci-Fi Chronicles book, so here I am.

Kidman is Joanna Eberhart, the brilliant and succesful leader of a television network.When her new line-up presentation ends in violence she’s fired and she and her husband, Walter (Broderick) relocate to the small, closed-gate, town of Stepford to figure things out, and hopefully save their marriage .

Unfortunately, there are odd things at work in the town, overseen by Mike Wellington (Walken), whose wife, Claire (Close) seems perfect. Midler takes on the role of Bobbie, while Lovitz plays her husband, Dave. Robotics, replacement, computer chips, and remote controls are the name of the day, but it just doesn’t have the same creepy thriller vibe as the original.

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Instead of the film’s original ending, the story continues to show the ‘new and improved’ Joanna, while Mark goes and hacks the system and restore the women to their prior state.

The jokes are lame, and the actors can’t tell whether to play it straight or ham it up and chew the scenery. The themes are lost, but I do like the tie in between the wives, and the smart houses, but beyond that, this one doesn’t really bring anything new to a story, that originally was grim and frightening, and in this iteration just seems bland and pointless.

Ira Levin’s novel is still there, under the surface, hiding, repressed, forced to fit into a comedy box that just doesn’t suit it. This film could have been nigh on terrifying in its Republican realisation of women, but it’s done so goofily that it just doesn’t work, and consequently, the threat and the terror is non-existent.

It’s rather sad that this one got remade as it did. Yes, the idea is rather silly, but if done correctly it could have been something truly horrifying, but instead, we get this lame duck of a film, that, like a good many remakes, miss the point of the original and goes for the entertainment value and goofy gags.

Even with a powerhouses like Kidman, Walken and Close, the film falls apart quickly, and is just unimaginative, and a sad stain on the original material, especially with the reveal in the last act of the film, it does a disservice to what the story was really about.

Sorry, but that’s really all I have to say on this one.

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