The Stepford Wives

Nicole… You know I love you, but I have to ask: What Were You Thinking?!? Maybe you liked the original “Stepford Wives” or the novel that inspired it, maybe you owed producer Scott Rudin one after he got you the Oscar, maybe you needed to work with a funnyman like Frank Oz after going all out dramatically with Lars von Trier and Anthony Minghella. Well, I’m not familiar with the previous incarnations of “Stepford”, I don’t owe Rudin squat and I happen to think that both the von Trier and the Minghella were amongst last year’s best. “The Stepford Wives”, alas, is a piece of shit.

Right from the start, as the movie spoofs reality TV (through your network president character’s unveiling of the new line-up), it reeks of easy, toothless satire. Then your Joanna has her “complete nervous collapse” and her husband (Matthew Broderick, sleepwalking through a retread of his emasculated Election character) decides to move the family to the quiet and pleasant little town of Stepford, Connecticut. This creepily perfect ’50s-style ‘burb is vaguely amusing, but it’s only a sheepish approximation of Tim Burton’s hilarious send-up of suburban conformity in Edward Scissorhands, down to the faux-Elfman score.

The film slowly crawls on and we start realizing that even once it’s done with the set-up, it will not pick up. Every attempt at humor is a clunker. Zero laughs. There are some colorful supporting performances (Glenn Close‘s housewife who acts like a “deranged flight attendant”, Bette Midler’s smart-ass balls-buster, Roger Bart’s flaming queen, Jon Lovitz‘ boorish ass of a husband, Christopher Walken being his priceless self) but the writing just isn’t there and everyone stands around doing and saying unfunny stuff with the pained looks of performers who know they’re involved in a miserable failure of a film.

My Nicole does her best, convincingly establishing Joanna as an overachieving, castrating woman, all short hair and black clothes, and we’re with you as your character reluctantly softens up, but even the most emotionally true performance in the world doesn’t matter when it’s not rooted in anything. “The Stepford Wives” is an erratically paced, spectacularly misguided picture that can’t decide whether it’s a comedy, a sci-fi thriller or a relationship drama. It switches tone constantly, sometimes in the middle of the same scene.

I couldn’t care less about the mystery of Stepford’s “perfect sex kitten bimbos”, especially considering how even the filmmakers obviously didn’t know if the Wives should be brainwashed women or robots. Whatever intriguing appeal can be found in the premise and what it has to say about the battle of the sexes is negligible. Glenn Close does have a great climactic breakdown scene, but it’s way too little, way too late.

Sorry, Nic, I call ‘em as I see ‘em. Call me.