A review of “The Stepford Wives” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *

Rating: PG-13 for adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

 

 

What kind of nitwit came up with the bright idea of a vapid remake (i.e. “comic re-imagining”) of the 1975 horror standard The Stepford Wives?  As a lifelong fan of that camp classic, the very concept offends me.

Nicole Kidman is badly miscast in the role that 70s siren Katherine Ross made her own.  Kidman plays cutthroat TV exec Joanna Eberhart, whose exemplary career has risen on a crest of reality TV programming.  When a disgruntled reality star tries to off Joanna, her network turns its back, and the high-caliber career gal suffers a complete nervous collapse.

In short order hubby Walter Kresby (Matthew Broderick) has Joanna and the kids out of the Big Apple and living the good life in rural Connecticut’s Stepford Estates, home of the tuxedo and chiffon set.

There’s something unnatural about Stepford. Could be the fact that every female in town is a coffee-toting, sex-pleasing, cake-baking automaton.  Or perhaps it’s the cookie-cutter etiquette and the carpet-duster aerobics class at the Simply Stepford Day Spa.  And here’s a cryptic brain tease: what’s going down in the vaunted halls of the Stepford Men’s Association?

The original Stepford was a brittle commentary on the advent of women’s lib, rife with sinister undertones of male chauvinism.  Its message was befitting the times and it continues to play well thirty years later for its historical relevance and B-movie style. Why mess with success?

Kidman’s Stepford tale telegraphs virtually every plot point, leaving little to the imagination.  The script is childish and churlish, checkered with unfortunate one-liners that fall as flat as a Stepford soufflé. Small measure of humor pokes malicious fun at Jews, technology, and the leisure-class. A-list stars, kitschy costuming, and flamboyant set design are for naught.

Kidman and comedy is a bad match; stick to what you know.  Bette Midler is typecast as a frumpy eccentric cum recipient of Stepford’s special buttons-and-bows treatment, and gay lovers spice up the notion of happily-ever-after the Stepford way. Only Glenn Close, as uber-wife Claire Wellington, plays it for spoof, but not well enough to rescue a sinking sink.