The Stepford Wives

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A warm-up of Ira Levin's scare story about the robot spouses who fulfill the domestic ideals of Madison Avenue in the Fifties. Or rather, a cool-down of it. The original screen version, directed by Bryan Forbes in 1975, plowed into the battlefield of Women's Lib when there was still a lot of shooting going on. Since then, we've come a long way, baby -- into the period of Political Correctness, the shouting down of social diagnostics by social prescription, the substitution of soft soap for hard truths, and the progressive pampering and sissifying of the movie audience. A remake of the story for the new millennium could hardly help but be archly knowing, smugly self-congratulatory, and blandly predigested; it could hardly help but give fair representation, too, to the male homosexual mate (a "witty and stylish and ironic" one, naturally); it could hardly help but be a comedy, still less a "dark" one (you know it's a comedy not because you can find things to laugh at, but because the scampering, scurrying Witches of Eastwick-y background music keeps telling you it's a comedy); it could hardly help but have a triumphant ending in which the tables get turned on the lordly menfolk and the women are restored to power; and it could hardly help but introduce a "surprise" twist or two at the cost of logic and sense. Even apart from all that, it seems a serious miscalculation to rewrite the Nancy Drew heroine -- the woman charged with sniffing out the dastardly scheme -- as a type-A career woman, a card-carrying rabid bitch, a cold-blooded profit-motivated head of a schlocky TV network, in fact a Faye Dunaway in Network, who starts out the movie as already less than human. (Are we meant to root for her robotization?) It seems a further miscalculation to divulge the plot secrets so early, to dispense with things like crescendoing suspense and dramatic climaxes, and simply to race along (the running time barely reaches an hour and a half) as if we all know where we're headed from the outset. But that's just to say that the whole idea of a comic remake in the first place was a miscalculation. Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken; directed by Frank Oz. (2004) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated PG-13 | 1 hour, 33 minutes
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