Nicole in Blunderland
Lessons learned from my love of movies: 1) movies adapted from books rarely do the written word justice; 2) remakes are not made for those who enjoyed the original movie but are aimed at a new generation of movie goers. What has that got to do with "The Stepford Wives"? Well prior to watching I read a lot of opinions which were scathing about this new version from those who were fans of the original movie to as those who were fans of the book who seem to ignore the fact that this was a movie which tried to make the story into something different and appealing to a new audience. Having said all that I will admit that "The Stepford Wives" didn't really work but it is not an abomination as some would have you believe, just a misfiring sci-fi comedy.
After being canned by a network when one of her reality shows leads to a contestant turning crazy and trying to kill her, Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman - The Human Stain) has a complete nervous breakdown. Desperate to save their marriage husband Walter (Matthew Broderick - You Can Count on Me) decides to movie the entire family to the perfect community of Stepford where everything is absolutely perfect. But Joanna doesn't fit in with being the perfect housewife and finds friendship in writer Bobbie (Bette Midler - What Women Want) and gay designer Roger (Roger Bart) who when they witness one of the residents collapse and shoot off sparks from their body begin to get very suspicious of something more sinister going on.
To be honest I have yet to watch the original "The Stepford Wives" and I am sure if I had I probably would be miffed by this remake as I understand the emphasis is completely different with this being a comedy. But as I said this is a remake for a new, modern audience and it is a remake which whilst directed by Frank Oz feels as if it is trying to be darkly funny in a Tim Burton sort of way, it even has a soundtrack which sounds like a Danny Elfman soundtrack. As such there is very little depth to this movie as everything is about the laughs rather than the subtext of feminism, repression and emasculation which does mean it is incredibly shallow. It also means that "The Stepford Wives" is also rather obvious when it comes to the secret which is given away far too early for my liking.
So that means that "The Stepford Wives" is all about the humour and unfortunately for me it doesn't quite work. You can see that what they were after was something along the lines of a Tim Burton movie, you know darkly funny and quirky, generally a bit oddball but more jokes end up misfiring than paying off. Part of the trouble is that because it lacks depth and intrigue it does become nothing more than a procession of gags and it needed something more to fill in when the jokes didn't work.
What this also means is that whilst "The Stepford Wives" features many well known names such as Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Glenn Close and Matthew Broderick they end up forgettable performances. None of the characters have any depth and so it all comes down to the delivery of funny lines and the occasional sight gag including one about breasts miraculously getting bigger.
What this all boils down to is that "The Stepford Wives" is not a bad movie when taken in context as a movie for a new generation but neither is it a great movie with lots of jokes misfiring with nothing in-between to fill in for when the jokes don't work.