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Movie Review

The Stepford Wives

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, thematic material and language

Reviewed by: Michael Karounos

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Sci-Fi Comedy Thriller Drama Remake
1 hr. 33 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
June 11, 2004
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Paramount Pictures

Adam and Eve

Relationship issues
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.
Featuring: Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken, Faith Hill, Bette Midler
Director: Frank Oz
Producer: Donald De Line, Gabriel Grunfeld, Scott Rudin, Edgar J. Scherick
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

“What if you could have the perfect life (wife)?”

The latest incarnation of “The Stepford Wives,” by Ira Levin (Rosemary’s Baby), is directed by Frank Oz and adapted by Paul Rudnick. The film stars Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Glen Close, Christopher Walken, Faith Hill, and the irrepressible Roger Bart as the obligatory Gay Man. Matthew Broderick also has a starring role, but it’s like the Cheshire Cat: invisible, except for a single, frozen expression.

The movie doesn’t take itself seriously, and so it’s hard for the viewer to take it seriously. Much like “Godsend,” the movie lost the path that does not stray and has aroused the ire of the critics.

What is it about? As David Edelstein at Slate notes enigmatically, Oz’s targets are obvious. To Christians, the targets are especially obvious. The film satirizes everyone and everything: suburbanites, Christmas, Republicans, feminists, Christianity, patriotism, the entertainment industry, Microsoft, materialism, and did I mention Christians?

The story is as follows: Two urban, Jewish couples (the Eberharts and the Markowitzs) move to Stepford, Connecticut from New York City. Joanna Eberhart (Kidman) is trying to recover from a nervous breakdown and Bobbi Markowitz (Midler) is trying to get away (I think) from her mother about whom she wrote a book entitled I Love You: Please Die. There are some good one-liners and several sight gags which keep the movie rolling at a brisk pace, but the movie bogs down when the curtain slips and the man behind the curtain (Oz) ventures into borderline religious bigotry.

For instance, Bobbi and and Joanna join the Stepford Book Club where Glen Close suggests they read a book which tells them how to “celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus with yarn.” Another woman volunteers that she’ll use a pine cone for baby Jesus in her display. Bobbi then wisecracks that she’ll use pine cones to spell out “Big Jew” in 15-foot letters in the snow. Get it? The baby Jesus pine cone replicates itself to spell out irony. That series of speeches might be funny to some, but it will only provoke an eye-rolling response in Christians who are tired of gratuitous digs at Christians, Christianity, and Jesus, as in the recent movie “Saved!.” Fortunately, as Hollywood knows, Christians are not combustible.

Later on, Roger Bart’s remade character makes a speech: “I believe in Stepford, America, and the power of prayer” and refers to his “partner in life and in the Lord.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. You get the idea.

There’s also some social commentary on women wanting it all, on men being jealous, on everyone being superficial, but it’s not coherent enough to judge whether the movie is being sly, satirical, or stupid.

In terms of potentially offensive content, the movie has one instance of “Jesus Christ” and three of “Oh my God.” There is no nudity, although there are some graphic illustrations of naked women’s bodies. There is also an unseen but distinctly overheard orgasm which out Meg Ryan’s famous rendition in “When Harry Met Sally.”

Visually, the movie is luscious. The opening credits are made to look like 1950’s commercials for the latest in kitchen gadgets colorized in a palette of turquoise and rose tones. The acting is also good overall. Kidman and Glen Close get into their comedic roles with gusto and Roger Bart is pitch-perfect in delivering most of the movie’s funny lines. On the down side, Broderick acts like Al Gore and Midler is Midler only not as funny.

Don’t go see this movie if you’re expecting to see a horror movie. It is a sometimes dark, sometimes slapstick, sometimes comedy marketed as a horror movie and re-written to strive for satire, and it succeeds at all of those… sometimes. At 93 minutes long, it played at a brisk pace and would have been fun, harmless entertainment had it been, oh, 83 minutes long. The movie ends at least three times after it should have and each twist is successively less humorous and less sensible than the one before.

Except for the anti-Christian schtick and the disastrous ending(s), I could have almost recommended it as a movie that is more fun than not. As it stands, “The Stepford Wives” is a cultural critique which offends those whom it targets and doesn’t entertain those whom it doesn’t. Understandably, such a formula does not make for a winning combination, and I can’t recommend it for a Christian audience.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—This movie was excellent! I went because my friend wanted me to go with her. I hadn’t really wanted to go, but I am SO glad I did. It was hilarious and so much fun. There were occasional sexual coments, but nothing extremely offensive. The language was definitely kept to a minimum. I definitely recommend it. I know I’m planning on seeing it again!
My Ratings: [Average/4]
Positive—I was pleasantly surprised by “The Stepford Wives.” If you recall the original 1975 film, this remake takes on a more comical tone than the first and pulls it off quite nicely. The only objectionable thing I could find that might offend some Christians would be a scene involving all the wives of Stepford getting together and discussing the use of acorns in the use of Christmas decorating. One of the women even suggests she would use a acorn to simulate baby Jesus in her nativity scene. If this was purposefully done to mock Christianity only you can be the judge. Personally I didn’t get that feeling. As far as language goes I didn’t notice a ton of it, probably a few words but it definitely was not extreme. I guess all in all I’d have to say I enjoyed this film.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Tom Becker, age 35
Positive—I thought the movie was very good. I would not suggest it for children and there are some offensive parts, but overall I found the characters to be well presented and humorous! I think the person who reviewed this looked a little to much into the poking fun of Christmas thing. I took it as them making fun of the women not my faith. I would not go to the theatre to see it, but it’s a good rental.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Tiffany Fenton, age 23
Positive—Very good, and a LOT more “family friendly” than the original, as no one is actually killed, just temporarily “altered.” It has a great message which is that nobody is perfect and that we need to accept and love others regardless of their flaws. There is a little strong language, but not anything kids don’t hear at school everyday. This movie is basically appropriate for everyone, but it might bore younger kids.
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—Kat, age 18
Positive—…I thought this movie was great… Were there some jokes that people would find offensive? Sure. Was there some language? A bit. Appropriate for kids under 13? Very unlikely. Is it great if you’d like to do what movies are intended to do, which is to let you escape reality for a short period of time and ENJOY FICTION? Most definitely. There’s a great balance of slapstick humor, some dark-comedy and I suppose a touch of horror in there, but don’t expect this movie to scare the pants off you.

…The review comment about a pinecone later being used to mention something else is totally misunderstood. They are talking about ways to decorate with pinecones and multiple people toss out many different ideas of what THEY will do. Why did Bette Midler make the remark about “BIG JEW” in 15 foot letters? She, as a Jewish woman does NOT celebrate Christmas and therefore was, I’d assume, bored at a book club meeting about Christmas decorations. Does this book totally promote or disgrace women’s organizations? NO. Again, as I stated, it is FICTION. There isn’t a way to turn your spouse into a robot. Please watch this movie if you like oddball humor and don’t mind a few “instances”…
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Brad, age 23
Neutral—Stepford wives could have been a better movie if it weren’t for all the sexual content. The explicit scenes were in the movie from beginning to end… unfortunately! On the brighter side I was glad to see a good concept come from this material. We don’t have to be perfect to be loved. Is it not the little imperfections that draws us to our spouse, friends, and family members… I believe it is!
My Ratings: [Average/2½]
—Marie, age 18
Neutral—I thought this movie was very funny, very clever, and absolutely nothing like the original but could have held its own very well. (the last 15 minutes were far too long and very out of place with the rest of the movie, like slamming into a brick wall…) other then that though, it was certainly entertaining… although a bit saddening as well. its amazing now how every movie seems to have pro-homosexual agenda’s if not blatenly homosexual characters. We, as a society, are becoming so desensitized, its very sad. There is a comment where the gay character says that his partner is his partner “in the Lord,” (I believe the reviewer mentioned this as well…) although the one thing I thought was humourous about it was that this character had been “altered” in traditional Stepford methods so I saw that as sort of metaphorical for the fact that it WAS not in the Lord… overall it was cute. Worth a matinee price, maybe a cheap rental… well done but would have been much better with out the gay agenda.
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
—M.W., age 28
Neutral—This movie was… different. It wasn’t what I really expected. There was quite a bit of objectional material, words/ideas/.etc, an adult movie for sure. I found it kind of creepy to, with the idea of how the men wanted the “perfect” wife and how they went about it quite selfishly. Although in the end they got their’s and the women up’d them. An odd movie, that’s all I can say.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—KC, age 23
Negative—I had read the book this movie was based on, and for the most part, enjoyed it. I thought the ending was pretty cool, despite the obvious feminist themes. I work at a movie store and got to see this movie before it even came out. The movie was horrible. It had a huge homosexual message—not at all like the original book. It took a woman from the book and turned him into a disgusting gay guy. The movie was horrible, and I warn everyone to stay away from it. At work, I do the same thing. The movie was charged with sexual jokes—much more of that then swearing. There was actually very little cussing, but the rest of it made up for it. Besides that, it wasn’t funny except a few small parts, the actors they advertised weren’t in the movie long enough, and the plot was zero. It kept flapping around and changing itself, without ever “finally making sense” at the end. Stay away from this movie!
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1]
—Kackie, age 18
Negative—The original Stepford Wives was far more workable as a sci-fi thriller. Now with electronic medical implants a matter of daily fare, transplants routine, cloning (yawn), tiny computer chips for everyday use and smart everything… a robot wife is hardly innovative nor exciting.

The creepy and what used to be considered disgusting to the average person, doesn’t phase people. They’re numbed by daily trash and Reality TV and up to their ears not just “in” but “of” the world. Unable to feel sin, there is a voracious craving for weirder and weirdest; sensitivity to what’s really important has for the most part been lost. So they turned this sequel into a comedy but what’s supposed to be funny isn’t if you have eyes to see what’s really happening. If you have Jesus in you, what most people laugh at will break your heart.You will love this movie if it doesn’t bother you when the Creator is mocked. Or if you think it’s funny that sodomites acting like idiots can sweetly quip and trick you into believing they’re just like everybody else.

If your heart is hardened to the sin of idle talk, course jesting and vulgarities intended to “entertain,” then go see this movie, you’ll probably love it and recommend it to others.

As for the major theme here, it is that women are superior to men and any idea of submitting to them repulsive. The men in this movie are weak and bumbling, the women rebellious and then lifted up for it. You decide.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3]
—Sunshine, age 55
Negative—The content of this movie was very tasteless. I don’t recommend this movie. There was a very disturbing audible scene from the bedroom that made even the senior citizens blush in front of me. And how confusing for a younger audience to see this and then wonder where the respect for women is… especially after the marathon climax and then the husband makes a request for Nachos. Was that request…”Because he could!” Talking to a “machine/robot/thingy.”

The homosexual in the movie was the most entertaining… as was intended. Why not make him the funniest with his sense of wit and immorality. That was the whole purpose to cram it into the audience and make them more accepting of the Gays.

I felt as if these play-pretty trophy wives were more accepted by their husbands since the husband was in control of them constantly to meet their needs or requests. Why promote anymore selfishness. Did I miss the whole point of the movie? I felt like I wasted my time.

As a Christian, this movie is immoral and doesn’t represent the man and woman relationship Christ intended… Robot or not!
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1½]
—Chris, age 35
Negative—My adult daughter and I went to see the movie on the day it opened in Pittsburgh. I had seen the original movie, a number of years ago, so I thought it would be interesting to see what changes were made to it. Among the changes was the addition of a token “gay couple.” The movie was worse than bad, if that’s possible. It was interesting to hear the people in the theater laughing at words put into the movie for the shock factor. If I were to give it a rating, it would be a minus one. Don’t waste your money!!
My Ratings: [Average/1]
—Bev Thurner, age retired
Negative—I wish I would have read some more reviews about this movie (especially from some of the younger viewers on this site) before I decided to see it. The move was completely offensive. Homosexuality was a major theme in this movie with a flamboyantly homosexual character in most scenes. The grotesque sexual references were not even subtle. At one point, several characters were listening to a couple having sex upstairs. The lady having sex said something like “You’re the king!” and the like. At this point, the homosexual character started running upstairs proclaiming “I want some!.” Later in the movie, the two homosexual characters referred to one another as “brothers in the Lord” and further mocking and disgracing Christianity completely. There was no “mis-interpreting” this. Is this movie suitable for children? Hardly, it is not even suitable for adults. The list of offenses is long. Avoid this movie.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/2]
—Jay Payte, age 30
Negative—I walked out. I am not much of a movie goer, (because of profanity), but remembered the first Stepford Wives and thought it would be fun to see this. The beginning was weird, especially in today’s gun crazed world. Poor humor. I admit to laughing at Nicole Kidman’s character while she was heading to Stepford. It was hard sitting through the first exclaimation of Jesus Christ’s name. About a third of the way through, while hearing the jesting about Christianity, Jesus, and then the gay guy… I knew I needed to leave. This movie was about everything that I am against and to laugh would have made me a hypocrite. Don’t waste your time.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1]
—Lynn Cope, age 42
Negative—Hollywood is making their agenda more and more visible as movie making progresses (or digresses). These are: 1. Promote homosexuality as something normal and acceptable, even by Jesus and God; 2. Present Jesus as someone who is basically useless or powerless; 3. Promote the agenda of the NOW (National Organization of Women) movement. This movie would seem to have been written around all three of these, as many other movies could have been. As far as the offensive connection between baby Jesus and a pine cone, it didn’t really bother me, because basically, I didn’t get the joke (if there was one). I would not recommend this movie for the simple reason that it is nothing more that a waste of an hour and a half, and in our case (me and my wife), a waste of 9 hard earned dollars. I recommend Christians everywhere should stop going to see, what we know are, “trash out of the pit of hell” movies. I’m waiting for Mel’s next movie, and for The Passion of Christ to come out on DVD. I would recommend “Les Miserables” with Liam Neeson, even if it’s for the hundredth time, instead of “The Stepford Wives.”
My Ratings: [Average/46]
—Jeff, age 46
Comments from young people
Negative—I went into this movie thinking it would be a great funny family teenage movie. Parts were funny, it was for adults, and the movie was offensive. There was an extreme gay couple. The gay guy was very offensive, at one point we find him running up the stairs to “get some” from a fellow male townmember. Later, there are numorous gay jokes and comments that make you feel gross and you leave the theater with a guilty feeling. Overall, the movie is for adults. There was one scene where three characters are at the bottom of the stairs and you hear graphic noises of a couple making love. There is also a mockery of God when the gay guy and his “lifetime partner” run for state senate. I would not see this movie, and I wouldn’t recommend it either.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Christopher, age 15
Positive—This was a really good movie. It was a lot better than I thought it would be. Of course, I love movies with surprise endings and stuff like that. As far as morally… I’m really naive so I didn’t get a lot of the jokes, but I did get some. There was a gay couple and you couldn’t help but cheer for one of the guys (which made me feel really bad for liking him). I think the person who reviewed this looked too deep into the whole Christmas decorating thing. I don’t think they were making fun of Jesus or anything, I think they were making fun of women and their sometimes stupid/overly creative decorating. Anyway this is not a kid’s movie, but I think it was worth the money to see it. It was creepy, romantic, and funny. It had problems but I liked the movie overall.
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
—Brittney, age 13
Positive—…a very good and sometimes thought provoking film. It definitely explores the whole gender role issue (the way that the men said that the men should make the money in the family etc.). The sexual subject matter was usually not as bad as most of the commenters on this page have said. All of the couples that were engaged in sex were married. There is nothing wrong with sex with your marriage partner! While it may be too graphic for younger teens and children, older teens would understand this and see that sex is a good thing between a husband and wife. The homosexuality did not come off as offensive except in one line. Other than that, Roger was a genuinely funny character and added liveliness to the movie. While homosexuality is a sin to my beliefs, I think that christians should be able to watch this movie with the “love the sinner, hate the sin” attitude and not be so offended by the homosexuality in the movie.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Matt, age 16
Movie Critics
…“The Stepford Wives” missed a great opportunity to update its message and speak to the very modern issue of what it means to be real in a superficial world…
—Annabelle Robertson, Crosswalk
…About a dozen profanities, two-thirds of which are exclamations of “my god”…
—Bob Smithouser, Plugged In
…the twists are predictable and fail to accrue much dramatic tension, but some of the characters are very funny, and there are laughs along the way…
—Eddie Turner, Movie Guide