There has always been something a tad absurd about The Stepford Wives, even once you accept its science-fiction premise, but the new film pushes the concept way, way over the top. The original novella by thriller writer Ira Levin (Rosemary's Baby, The Boys from Brazil) tapped into feminist fears that men would gladly exchange their flesh-and-blood wives for domesticated, hyper-sexual robots if they could, and the 1975 film directed by Bryan Forbes went on to emphasize the even deeper horror that takes place within the men themselves: it is one thing to be killed and replaced by a machine, but it is quite another to allow your own soul to be twisted against your conscience. These days, however, it seems the battle of the sexes is either so complicated or so passé—take your pick—that the only thing a mainstream film can do with the subject is to make fun of it all. So, in the hands of Frank Oz—the Muppeteer who gave life to Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and Yoda, and the director of the campy musical version of Little Shop of HorrorsThe Stepford Wives has become an out-and-out comedy.

And as comedies go these days, it's actually fairly funny, albeit in a light, superficial way which either hides or exposes the fact that the plot is a thick tangle of mutual contradictions and the social commentary is pretty much all over the place. No doubt the incoherence on display can be blamed on the reshoots that reportedly plagued this production, but one does have to wonder how much of the credit, if that's the word, should go to screenwriter Paul Rudnick (In & Out), whose work in the past has shown a similar preference for zingers over narrative logic.

The first sign that the new film has pretty much nothing ...

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The Stepford Wives
Our Rating
2½ Stars - Fair
Average Rating
 
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Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for sexual content, thematic material and language)
Directed By
Frank Oz
Run Time
1 hour 33 minutes
Cast
Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Glenn Close
Theatre Release
June 11, 2004 by Paramount Pictures
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