The Stepford Wives (12A)
Time Out saysThe idea of the ‘Stepford wife’ has now passed into the vernacular, even for those who have never read Ira Levin’s novel or watched Bryan Forbes’ creepy 1975 film, of which this is a largely uninspired remake. Here, Nicole Kidman assumes the Katharine Ross role as Joanna Eberhard, a sharp-suited media executive who is unceremoniously fired from her job at a TV channel in New York City and subsequently slips into an extreme depression. Exactly why a move en masse with your family – Joanna’s hubby, Walter, is played by Matthew Broderick – to the anodyne, sickly-sweet, oh-so-perfect Connecticut suburb of Stepford should cure anybody’s mental illness is beyond me. The town’s manicured lawns, pink frilly dresses, mock Tudor mansions and horrific inhabitants should be enough to push most sane people over the edge permanently. If this is the American Dream, I’m quite happy with the nightmare.
Of course, that is partly the point; this is all intended as a satire on conservative, middle-American values. However, the crucial problem with this remake is that the central conceit is now well-known. Still, to protect newcomers to the story, I won’t reveal it here; suffice to say the plot machinery of the original is still intact. This time around, however, Oz and writer Paul Rudnick play it more for laughs, and there’s nothing more ineffective than mild satire. Furthermore, Bette Midler’s chaotic Jewish writer and Roger Bart’s flighty gay man are both as stereotypical as the fully paid-up housewives. Oz’s Stepford is simply not sinister enough, allowing the film all the critical bite of a camp guard dog.