If there were a real town such as Stepford Connecticut, single men everywhere would flock from miles around, like the end scene in Field of Dreams and become Connecticutians. Is that what they call themselves? Anyway, this remake of the 1975 cult classic, based on the book my Ira Levin, is wonderfully done and scathingly funny and actually, it's a pretty good date movie, despite the off-the-wall premise. But you get tons of dark humor, and a great take on the battle of the sexes, instead of corny lines and improbable romances, which is definitely a good thing.
The movie starts out with the ultra-successful Joanna Eberhard (Kidman), a TV network president, speaking to all of the network's affiliates about their new line-up which, of course, is filled with reality programming. God, when will this reality trend end already? Anyway, it all goes awry when one of the contestants on this show that's just like the show Change of Heart, gets mad at Joanna for the show that lost him his wife, and attempts to kill her at the meeting. This is not good for the network, of course, and she gets axed and her shows all get taken off. So Joanna and her docile husband Walter Kresby (Broderick) decide to make a fresh start in Stepford, where the soon realize that something is afoul with this Brave New World-like town.
There isn't much that is wrong with this movie, but when they get into the whole "reasoning" at the end, it is a nice surprise, but it's fairly odd, and it doesn't quite work for me. Of course, I won't spoil it for you, but the whole movie is pretty dark and they kind of went the "happy ending" route, which I didn't think they would do. It does all work out nicely, but the way they had the whole movie set up, I was thinking that they'd give it a non-Hollywood ending instead of having everything all hunky-dory.
Nicole Kidman did give a fairly decent performance, but she was really stretching in some parts and she was trying to go over the top too much. The short-hair look doesn't really work for her, and they basically give her that look to solidify her as being Woman Independent. It isn't the worst performance of her career, but I don't think she will be getting her 4th straight Oscar nomination, at least not for this performance. But the rest of the performances are very good. Matthew Broderick still has that deer-caught-in-headlights look that he's had for his whole career, and he is just a perfect fit as the man who doesn't wear the pants, Walter. Christopher Walken is always great, as he is here, but man does that guy need a haircut. His hair is bordering on Don King territory, but he does a very nice job as Mike Wellington, the head of the Stepford Men's Association. Country goddess Faith Hill is decent in a fairly small role, but what really surprised me was the performances of two people who normally annoy me: Jon Lovitz and Bette Midler. They both give very nice performances here, Lovitz as a doofus husband, and Midler as his wife, and noted novelist. Lovitz is almost always over the top and he usually is unbearable for me, but he gives a more subdued performance, for him anyway. Midler gives a very nice performance here as the quirky writer, and is great at delivering screenwriter Paul Rudnick's sharp, quick-paced dialogue. But the best performance comes from Roger Bart. He is just hilarious as one of the town's only homosexual men, and he has some wonderful chemistry with Midler and Kidman, while they're plotting against the Men's Association. He has some of the best lines in the movie, and his delivery is wonderful.
The best part about this movie is the great script by Paul Rudnick. When I looked him up on the Internet, I was a little worried, because his resume isn't that great (See: Marci X). But the script is wonderful, with some subtle nuances (like Eberhard keeping her maiden name), and some slick dialogue and one-liners. I wished he handled the ending a little differently, put the script as a whole is very nicely crafted with some fantastic adult humor, something you normally don't see much of in the summer months.
Director Frank Oz is an incredibly diverse person. Not only is he a talented director (See: The Score) but he also does the voice of Yoda in the Star Wars series, but he has also done a number of voices, including many on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. But he does a wonderful job at the helm here, although his work with Kidman is a tad sketchy. But he brings out some great things in his talent, and he employs some nice shots and camera angles.
The Stepford Wives is a devilshly dark comedy that says you don't have to be perfect, to be in the perfect relationship. It's a highly entertaining movie, and while it has some flaws, it doesn't really have a lot of them.