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Memo to Stepford Wives (and Husbands): Get a Life

June 23, 2004 – Can you imagine a movie with Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler, to say nothing of Glenn Close and Christopher Walken, not being simply grand? Well, I couldn't either, but then I saw the remake of "The Stepford Wives."
Never has so much talent been wasted on so little. Or some such. There's always the "Ocean's 11" remake.
Anyhow, the original 1975 movie was from the thriller by Ira Levin, who also wrote "Rosemary's Baby," and it had its suspense. The remake has no suspense unless you count waiting for these actors to be given something to get their teeth into.
The current production, we are led to believe, focuses on humor, not suspense. And more's the pity. The missed opportunities tumble over themselves as powerful TV executive Joanna Eberhart (Kidman) crashes her Manhattan career in a big way, provoking a move to the Connecticut suburb of Stepford with husband Walter (Broderick) and their two kids.
Claire Wellington (Close) is the neighborhood doyen. She takes Joanna to an aerobics class with all the neighborhood wives, who look like Lily Pulitzer clones in tropical pastels. They don't wear exercise outfits."Oh no, we couldn't let our husbands see us like that," says Claire, as the ladies exercise in high heels to the motions of household chores. "Now, let's all be washing machines." But, somehow, this just isn't funny. It doesn't work. It's too staged.
Joanne takes up with maverick author Bobbie Markowitz (Midler) and gay architect Roger Bannister (Roger Bart), and for a while it looks like there is hope, after all. The three realize something is definitely fishy in Stepford. It's too perfect. The women docile to the point of being witless; the men delighted with them.
Walken as Close's husband is the perfectly evil male influence, the head of the men's association. Now, what is he even doing in this movie? He must have lost his head. (This is not a fair statement; it's an in-joke.) On the other hand, Close is the only one who seems to take the movie for what it is worth — very little — and run with it.
It's not exactly giving the plot away to say there is evil at play here — the women have been turned into robots, even the mouthy Bobbie and architect Roger. Joanne gets really scared when she realizes what is happening, but Broderick as her husband is ambiguous. Will he help Joanne before she is roboted, or not? Now, this is the talented Broadway Broderick, lately of "The Producers." What is he doing here?
The movies runs 1:33. It is directed by Frank Oz, written by Paul Rudnik based on Levin's book, and rated PG for sexual content, thematic material and language. Whatever that means.
It is playing at Market Square East.

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