Reviewed by: Michael Karounos
|Featuring:||Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken, Faith Hill, Bette Midler|
|Producer:||Donald De Line, Gabriel Grunfeld, Scott Rudin, Edgar J. Scherick|
“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