ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  frank oz

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  comedy

LENGTH  -  93 minutes

RELEASED  -  11 june 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  columbia pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  stepford

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $90,000,000
the stepford wives - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the stepford wives at

buy the dvd from the stepford wives at

a successful businesswoman is disgraced and moves to the country with her husband and children and discovers their town is filled with strange perfect women and even weirder husbands.

siblings john cusack and joan cusack were originally cast as walter eberhart and bobbie markowe, respectively, but had to drop out of the film for family reasons.


picture from the stepford wives

picture from the stepford wives

picture from the stepford wives

picture from the stepford wives


zero out of four possible stars

As a remake, The Stepford Wives is a film doomed to be compared to its predecessor. And while the original was no work of art, this millennial update certainly sinks the reputation of the story sufficiently. Beginning with a few rather bad casting choices and ending with a scattered and inconsistent script, the movie is hampered by several uninspiring story decisions that leave the actors in a lurch.

The most evident difficulty concerns the casting. While Nicole Kidman (playing wife “Joanna Eberhart”) and Matthew Broderick (playing husband “Walter Kresby”) have sported fine performances in other projects, their casting as a married couple will have many viewers mystified. Possessing no shred of chemistry with one another, the two are at odds and ends with one another whenever they’re on the screen together. Strangely, their performances actually seem to perk up when they’re not on the screen together. Get them apart and they actually become interesting.

Despite the mistakes regarding the casting of the lead roles, supporting cast members including Christopher Walken, Glenn Close, and Bette Midler seem to have been handled with more success as each of their appearances is lively despite the far from clean script. In all honesty, had the dialogue been just a little more sprightly, so many of the jokes might not have fallen so hard without an answering laugh from the audience.

And indeed, there are instances in almost every scene where a joke doesn’t simply trip and fall, but fails to even crack out of the starting gate. If one were to assume the film was more of a drama than the farce it presents itself as, perhaps the staid quality of the jokes could have been overlooked since those tepid exchanges wouldn’t have been created as comedic material. But Stepford has been marketed as a black comedy, the filmmakers even going so far as to include music in the theatrical trailer from Men in Black, a score from a well-known black comedy.

Viewers just might be surprised at how serious much of the film is, given the presence of director Frank Oz whose name is synonymous with hilarity. Rumor regarding difficulties on the set notwithstanding, the final product is plagued with the deadly combination of bad casting and bad scripting. One wonders what kind of film Stepford might have been if different casting choices for the lead roles had occurred. It’s not the Broderick and Kidman don’t rise to the challenge of the script. It’s just that they can’t do it together.

Assuming though that since the casting has long been completed and with it the final prints struck, the only recourse for viewers is the willingness to find value in other areas of the film. Most notably, the familiar deadpan performance of Christopher Walken, complete with his deliciously odd cadence of speech, should ensure viewers receive at least a few entertaining bits of dialogue over the film’s ninety-three minutes.

The second area viewers might find themselves interested is the set decoration and design. Cinematographer Rob Han showcases well the cloying and affected lifestyles of the stupidly rich to a graphic degree. Working with him, the design team, led by art director Kent Matheson and production designer Jackson De Govia have done their jobs beautifully, ensuring the film is at the very least interesting to look at, even if the narrator doesn’t catch your eye.

The dialogue (tired) and the plot (predictable) being what they are, it’s possible Stepford’s cast of actors had a more difficult task in creating straightforward black comedy. Unfortunately the film’s none-to-subtle societal statement on the arrival of powerful women in the workplace is about thirty years out of date. Where this statement might have made an emotional impact on viewers in the mid-seventies, today’s Stepford Wives are nothing but shallow fodder for a Hollywood remake. This film is a prime example that some films can’t be simply remade with the fashions of today and hope to retain any shred of their original theme and/or statement.

This sticking point might not necessarily be a problem if a film is well-made, regarding dialogue and plot, but the makers of this film have simply slapped the wardrobe of a 2004 cast of characters on the actors, hoping that this remake could duplicate the interest of the original. In fact, the filmmakers could have taken the film in an entirely different non- statement direction, focusing instead on the black humor or the story itself. But the humor simply isn’t there and the political statement has no impact on the conscience of viewers.

Despite the sturdy production values, the story and performance elements are so ludicrous that it’s too much of a trial to make the effort to try and care about the fortunes of the characters. Even the downright creepy performance of Glenn Close, in the role of Walken’s spot-on 1950’s era housewife, complete with perfect frock and flawless coif, cannot engender more than a “hmm, interesting,” type of response from viewers.

It’s probably best to stick with the original film when considering this story and how effective it may or may not be on a viewer’s conscience. Although dated, at least the original was successful in its own time regarding its theme and statement on the women’s movement of the twentieth century. The Stepford Wives of 2004 holds far less promise for viewers and is rather messy on most of its uncreative levels.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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