2004-07-02 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

‘The Stepford Wives’ – Robot Makeover

Is "The Stepford Wives" dated? It’s question that moviegoers must ask themselves before plunking down nine bucks for a ticket to the remake of the 1975 Ira Levin thriller. The answer is no. Although modern women certainly have minds of their own, today’s obsessive infatuation with cosmetic perfection makes one wonder whether robot wives would go unnoticed in upscale suburbia. The new "Wives" adds a few contemporary twists to the story. Written by Paul Rudnick, what was spooky has become comedic with the idea that the men of  Stepford, Conn., are so threatened by their power-player wives that they robotize them as ‘60’s June Cleavers.

Into this world comes recently-canned, Reality-TV exec Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) and her dutiful husband, Walter Kresby (Matthew Broderick). With no visible means of support, they somehow manage to buy a beautiful house in the exclusive, gated suburb of  Stepford to escape the hectic life in Manhattan. Heading the community are Mike and Clare Wellington (Christopher Walken and Glenn Close), who introduce them to the male neighbors and their immaculate, manicured wives. At a lavish garden party, skeptical Joanna meets two more rebellious types, an opinionated novelist (Bette Midler) and a gay architect (Roger Bart). Joanna’s dubiousness is checked when the three friends step into the Sunderson home mid-day, only to overhear the sounds of orgasmic glee coming from Sarah Sunderson (Faith Hill) in the bedroom. "Gee, maybe they’re on to something in Stepford?" think the three. The former high-powered exec and her friends decide to give domesticity a shot. Joanna dresses like Betty Crocker and proceeds to bake a zillion cupcakes. Midler’s character dyes her hair blond and cleans her kitchen, while the architect straightens up and becomes a Right-Wing political candidate.

Oz’s remake is peppy and funny, ultimately careening to a "Twilight Zone" zinger climax. However, the over-the-top performances by Close, Walken, Midler and Bart make "Wives" work. Broderick is surprisingly stiff (almost robot-like), with Kidman okay filling the investigative heroine role. Jon Lovitz as the novelist’s husband has almost nothing to do, but fiddle with an oversized pink bra in expectation of sexual pleasures after wife’s robot makeover. Leaving the theater last week, one satisfied male moviegoer turned to his spouse and remarked, "Maybe, I should make you into a Stepford wife."


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