It is appropriate that Frank Oz directed this movie, since Nicole Kidman acts like a muppet, and Bette Midler bears a striking resemblance to Miss Piggy after being transformed into a Stepford wife. He must have felt right at home.
This is one of those remakes that make you go “huh?” Why bother to remake a movie that wasn’t all that great in the first place if you are not going to take the original material and work it to whatever potential it actually had? Why make another piece of forgettable dreck? Why cast a woman who can’t pick a decent script to save her life (or her career)? Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh, she did Cold Mountain, but was still outshone by Renee Zellweiger.
But back to Stepford Wives. It is easy to get distracted from this movie, in fact staying with it to the end is quite a feat. It starts off promisingly enough, with some clever title graphics involving 50s images of perfect wives, but it starts going downhill as soon as Kidman makes her first appearance. She is playing a hard-as-nails, heartless and ambitious TV executive called Joanna Eberhart – and she looks like one, with her smooth steel cap of red hair, frigid face and sexless exec clothes. All that’s missing is a sign on her forehead.
In short order Joanna causes mayhem with her TV reality shows, gets the boot and winds up in Stepford, whither she has been spirited to start afresh as a suburban housewife by her concerned spouse, Walter Kresby (Matthew Broderick). Hm, here’s our first nod to the 21st century – Joanna is now portrayed as having kept her maiden name after marriage. Well, you can hardly blame her – I mean, Kresby, really.
Things pick up when Glenn Close, as a frantically keen Stepford Wife in gorgeous dresses and immobile hair, and Roger Bart, as a gay Stepford ‘wife’, make their appearances. Close is always magnificent, no matter what awful material she has to work with, and Bart is predictable but amusing – even more so when he is made over Stepford-style. Midler does what she does with her usual flair, bless her.
But even with these reliable professionals working their butts off, Stepford Wives can’t be saved, as the script spirals out of control and studio execs even crazier than Joanna step in and change the ‘downbeat’ ending. This is the one from the original movie, where Joanna does not escape her fate.
With utter disregard for the logic of the script, an ending where (with one mighty bound) Joanna and Walter rehabilitate Stepford and free the wives is tacked on. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and leaves the viewer with jaw hanging open. But enough spoilers – trust me, it’s spoiled enough. See the original, at least it makes sense.