the science fiction
fantasy horror &
The Stepford Wives (2004)
Director: Frank Oz
review by Shiraz Rahim
Frank Oz (voice of Yoda in Star Wars) brings to the screen a new twist on Byran Forbes' haunting 1974 classic The Stepford Wives. Not having seen the original in its entirety, I can't comment as accurately on the parallels between the two versions, but I can say that, from what I have seen, there are multiple changes in the newer film. To my knowledge, the original Stepford Wives was a horror film that focused on the drama and fright of a maniacal inventor who attempts to make a perfect town by turning everyone into robots. Frank Oz, however, turns the story into a comedy and takes a much more humorous stance on the issue of a perfect world.
The film begins with Joanna (played wonderfully by Nicole Kidman from Moulin Rouge!) as she launches an array of TV shows as the vice president of a major TV broadcasting company. Unfortunately, accidents on one of her planned reality shows results in Joanna being fired from the company and leading to a mental breakdown. Upon seeing her degrading condition, her husband Walter (Matthew Broderick from Election) decides to move the family to the small town of Stepford where he believes Joanna can wind down and live a stress-free life.
Upon arriving, the rest of the family settles perfectly into the calm, inviting neighbourhood. Joanna, however, slightly hostile toward the women in the town for their devotion to the life of a stereotypic woman (such as spending all day shopping and cooking and taking care of children), begins feeling suspicious of the townspeople. She suddenly notices an interesting connection in all of the Stepford residents: beautiful, perfect women married to ugly, imperfect husbands. After a little bit of help from her friends Bobbie (Bette Midler) and Roger (Roger Bart), who happen to also be opposed to the lifestyles of these Stepford wives, she discovers the true personalities behind these women and comes to realise the plans of the husbands as they steadily turn their wives into subservient, gorgeous brides. Their method: turn their wives into robots.
The fact that this version added a great deal of humour to achieve its entertainment served to make the movie very enjoyable. Although I realise that the plot is fitting for a horror mystery film, humour from some of Hollywood's greatest comedy actors (Broderick, Midler, and Glenn Close) helps to make the movie so much better. Oz crafts a tale in which a failed TV executive (Kidman), a popular and very opinionated writer (Midler), and a very funny gay man (Bart) fall perfectly in place to make a believable and entertaining comedy.
To supplement this comical twist on the plot is a wide array of acting talent that further adds to the fun of the film. There are amazing performances from such greats as Kidman, Broderick, Jon Lovitz, Close (Fatal Attraction), Christopher Walken (Pulp Fiction), and Midler to make the film extremely entertaining and very amusing. These actors manage to bring the talent that they are so widely known for in Hollywood, combining into a film that is so packed with extraordinary acting that it made the events of the film believable and well executed.
So, with that in mind, I'd rate this film as a movie that you will greatly enjoy, provided you like the type of humour that Frank Oz presents in this film. For people like me, this movie will come as time well spent and provide the level of entertainment that most of Kidman's films have done for me in the past years. With a great cast and a funny plot, The Stepford Wives is a great pick. And even for those still unsure of whether or not this is a choice for them, with a tagline of "There's something happening in Stepford," you can't help but check it out.
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