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The Stepford Wives

movie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Bette Midler, Christopher Walken, Faith Hill, Glenn Close, Roger Bart, Jon Lovitz, Lorri Bagley, Mike White, Christopher Evan Welch, Robert Stanton, Kate Shindle

Review by Susan Granger
2 stars out of 4

From Ira Levin's suspenseful horror-story and the 1975 movie, the term "Stepford wife" has come into the vernacular as the perfect woman, according to the male chauvinists who created her. Now the story has been updated into a comedy-thriller, with the emphasis on comedy.

After she's fired as president of a TV network and suffers a nervous breakdown, Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman), her dutiful husband Walter (Matthew Broderick) and their kids move from Manhattan to idyllic Stepford, Connecticut, with its opulent McMansions and SUVs. Joanna befriends other newcomers - a tipsy, sardonic writer (Bette Midler) and a gay architect (Roger Bart) with his partner (David Marshall Greer) - while Walter joins a secret men's club run by Mike Wellington (Christopher Walken), whose wife (Glenn Close) is Stepford's community leader. But something strange is going on in suburbia. Are the men are turning their once-powerful wives into compliant robots? Will Joanna and Walter perhaps twist the system around?

Director Frank Oz and writer Paul Rudnick have fashioned a post-feminist fantasy, a reaction to sexual politics, women's lib and female power. The darkly ominous tone disappears into a creepy, comedic chasm, and much of the humor is achieved through visual effects, not only of the robotically-challenged women but also a terrier-like dog. Problem is: neither Kidman nor Broderick play particularly likable characters. She's callow and he's a dork. Despite some amusing one-liners, I kept thinking of the black comedy "Death Becomes Her," even "Witches of Eastwick" - and how much better they were. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Stepford Wives" is a

Copyright 2004 Susan Granger

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