Retro Review: Stepford Wives

“The Stepford Wives”, classic 1975 sci-fi horror film escaladed the paranoia that everything you know isn’t always what it seems. The idea of replacing your mate with a robo-duplicate was horrific and absurd. The original Stepford concept was just that, horrific.

In the remake of the 1975 classic, Joanna Eberhard (Nicole Kidman) watches as she takes a tumble off the corporate ladder while she is at the top of her game. Her husband, Walter (Matthew Broderick), decides to take his family to a quiet secluded Connecticut town called Stepford.

Joanna is awe-struck when she witnesses all the women of this new quaint little town. They all seem to have been struck by a “Barbie” virus. Even more shocking is that Walter doesn’t seem to mind.

Joanna makes friends with other new Stepford arrivals Bobbie Markowitz (Bette Midler) and Roger Bannister (Roger Bart). The new friends decide that they have to uncover what is happening in Stepford and what is the secret to the town’s bliss. The truth could be more sinister than they realize.

This new incarnation of the classic film is a completely new take on the whole Stepford concept. It is humorous and witty with an incredible ensemble cast. The horror element has been scaled way back to make room for the comedy.

Why there is no horror concept in this version of Stepford is because the world that Joanna comes to in Stepford is like stepping back into the 1950s. The dresses, hairstyles, and ideas on what marriage is all about are all so out of date. People in a town like that would have to be robots or at least be filming a “Leave it to Beaver” reunion movie.

The only concept that seems to step away from Joanna being trapped in the 1950s is the inclusion of the gay couple of Roger and Jerry. But the whole controversy of Connecticut being the only state to allow gay marriages makes their inclusion even more hilarious.

I really enjoyed the original Stepford concept because the whole idea of robots replacing our mates was always under the surface and the concept melded into the society of the 1970s. If this new version wanted to accentuate the horror element of Stepford than the quiet town shouldn’t have been so foreign but felt and looked like today. Then slowly watch as Joanna came apart and saw that the robo-duplicates had invaded her realm without her knowledge. Now that is horror.

As for the film’s ending, it does feel a little forced but does follow the film’s new vision of the Stepford concept. A horrific finale wouldn’t have made a lot of sense since the film is such a drastic departure from the original.

The reason the comedic elements of this new Stepford film work is because of the stellar cast and the witty dialogue. Kidman and company are all brilliant in their respective roles. I just felt that Christopher Walken, Matthew Broderick and Faith Hill were all vastly underused or underappreciated. I do feel that if this version was the horror one that these characters could have been a lot more effective.

If you like original or were looking for a thriller laced in social paranoia than this version probably isn’t for you. But if you like light laughs, an all-star cast and a little bit of sci-fi than you will probably love this film.

(3.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer

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