The Stepford Wives (2004)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

As Hollywood continues to raid the vaults of the past for their “new” movie ideas, it’s now come to “The Stepford Wives” to have a 21st century twist on it. The original was genuinely creepy, with Katherine Ross and Paula Prentiss playing the wives who didn’t seem to fit in with everyone else. Katherine Ross has been replaced with Nicole Kidman and Prentiss with a gay man, but the story is still the same. “The Stepford Wives” dares to toy with our vision of perfection – or maybe a man’s view of perfection. Speaking as man, I would have to admit that it would be nice to come home to, say, Nicole Kidman where dinner would be ready and she’s submit to my wildest desires – night after night. But that’s not reality…and Director Frank Oz has made a career out of some rather obscure choices as an actor and director. He started out with Muppet movies and has dabbled in dark comedy with “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “In & Out” and even directed the entertaining “Bowfinger” a few years back. But turning a campy 70’s movie into a campy movie in the 21st century is a big risk. And the filmmakers are assuming that a familiarity with the original’s plot is already known. But did it pay off?

We meet Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) as her latest television show has resulted in tragedy. She’s fired from her executive position her husband (Matthew Broderick) resigns from the same network. They move to Stepford, Connecticut for a change of pace and scenery where the air will hopefully do her good. Joanna meets Claire (Glenn Close), the real-estate agent who also leads an aerobics class and who is just a bit too peppy for Joanna’s good. Every woman in town is like this except for Bobbie (Bette Midler), whose house is in disarray and she’s the only other one who doesn’t dress like June Cleaver. The men hang out at the social club (Stepford Men’s Association) where the women are forbidden. It doesn’t take Joanna long to figure out that all isn’t right in the town of Stepford – particularly after she sees another woman go up in smoke! The unquestioned leader of the town is Mike Wellington (Christopher Walken), an eerie role custom-tailored for Walken. As Joanna’s friends are normal one day and like zombies the next (albeit the house-cleaning, cooking type) it seems all is not right in the town of Stepford. In any regard, those familiar with the original won’t be surprised here and the trailer more than gives away any secrets of the movie. By making this a comedy, it works better than a simple re-telling would be and the performance by Walken is enough to warrant a viewing. As for me, I liked this re-make and would be a willing member of the Stepford Men’s Association if given a chance…

Video: How does it look?

“The Stepford Wives” comes in two versions, a full-frame and an anamorphic widescreen (available separately, of course) version. The 1.85:1 anamorphic image is fairly good overall, but suffered a few errors that aren’t really consistent with a new to DVD movie. Some of the scenes appeared a bit soft and while not “fuzzy”, it looked like the detail in some scenes was a bit iffy at best. The print used was clean and though edge enhancement and artifacting isn’t an issue, a couple of scenes seemed a bit dingy. For the most part, “Stepford” looks great, but this being so new – I’d have expected a little more.

Audio: How does it sound?

A fairly standard Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is used here and to great effect in some scenes. Naturally, this is mostly a dialogue-driven comedy with sparingly few audio effects. There are a few scenes in which the surrounds really light up and make their presence known, though these are few and far between. Dialogue is very clean, with good range and no distortion. Lastly, the LFE is fairly inactive as well and though all of this might add up to a rather bland sounding track, suffice it to say that it’s just that. It’s not disappointing in the least, but not impressive either.

Supplements: What are the extras?

In an effort to entice us to buy the disc, Paramount has added a bevy of supplements to the single disc Special Edition. First up is an audio commentary with Director Frank Oz whose recognizable voice (he is the voice of Yoda from “Star Wars”) peppers us with bits of information from the movie. His track isn’t totally technical or overtly boring, but rather in the middle. We learn of updating the movie for the 21st century, casting the actors and the production and visual effects. It’s a fairly interesting track, to say the least. Several featurettes are included starting with “A Perfect World: The Making of ‘The Stepford Wives'”. This is your standard EPK featurette with interviews of the cast and crew. It runs 20 minutes and is nothing we haven’t seen before. Next is “In Stepford: A Definition” which shows us how the movie has become involved in society (it’s synonymous with “perfection”) and this is analyzed by a few of the film’s stars as well. “Stepford: The Architects” focuses on how the movie was updated from the 1975 original, turning it into a comedy, etc. Lastly we have “The Stepford Wives” and “The Stepford Husbands” in which we get insights from the actors who portrayed them. We get some clips of other work they’ve done as well as basic character notes. It’s interesting, but nothing I’d imagine watching over and over. There are six deleted scenes that don’t offer much as to why they were cut as well as a gag reel. The original theatrical and teaser trailer are also included. All in all “The Stepford Wives” is fairly entertaining and, at the very least, eye candy for any viewer.

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