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Paramount Studios presents
The Stepford Wives (2004) (2004)

Walter Kresby: Only castrating Manhattan career bitches wear black. Is that what you want to be?
Joanna Eberhart: Ever since I was a little girl.

- Matthew Broderick, Nicole Kidman

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: November 07, 2004

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick
Other Stars: Bette Midler, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, Faith Hill, Jon Lovitz
Director: Frank Oz

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, thematic material, and language
Run Time: 01h:32m:24s
Release Date: November 09, 2004
UPC: 097363380146
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ C-B+B+ C+

DVD Review

My general stance on remakes is that if they offer something new and interesting and build upon the issues and themes of their source material, they are successful. And yet for every success story—look no further than the recent Alfie for a good example—there are others that make you wonder just exactly why another retelling is necessary. The most telling instance of this is Frank Oz's The Stepford Wives, a nearly disastrous remake that is a jumbled mess of the originally intriguing story.

By now everyone knows the central plot thread of Ira Levin's original novel as well as the 1974 filmed version, and for the most part the story is the same here. But somehow, some way, things went wrong, and this version of Levin's novel becomes nothing more than a straightforward comedy.

This time around, Walter Kresby (Broderick) and Joanna Eberhart (Kidman) have left the hustle and bustle of New York for the quiet town of Stepford, Conneticut, after Joanna is fired from her high profile television job. The cause for her firing is that a contestant on a Temptation Island-like series has gone on a shooting spree after losing his girlfriend, thanks to a predetermined outcome on the reality series. Sent into a state of shock, Joanna arrives in Stepford to a luxurious new house and surroundings that would make Martha Stewart envious—especially now.

But, as everyone knows, the women of Stepford have a secret and soon Joanna begins to see that something strange is happening. The women are much more interested in being full-time mothers and housewives than independent successful businesswomen, and aside from another recent member of the town, Bobbi (Midler), each of the women appear as perfectly made-up servants for their husbands. While the women are all eerily similar, the men share only one thing—a membership to the local men's association, which Walter is close to becoming a member of. It doesn't take Joanna long to see that there is something strange happening in the town of Stepford, and the root of it lies in the men's club.

Given that the original film has been made into sequels and has become a staple in pop culture (I remember hearing someone referred to as a "Stepford wife" at a very early age), it is understandable that this film has shifted gears from thriller to comedy, given that the original twist is a part of entertainment history. But this remake seems to want to be both genres with a large portion of the second and third act bouncing uncomfortably back and forth between comedy and suspense. This could be due to the fact that production was bogged down by delays while a new ending—or, depending on who you talk to, a whole new movie—was written.

Perhaps then because of this duality, the film fails, as there are several plotholes big enough to house two Stepford communities. In fact in one scene, more specifically the reveal late in the film, what is said all but contradicts what occurs previously in the film. Supposedly, the finale took a month to shoot, largely because they shot two different endings, and it is clear that evidence of the unused plot threads still remain in the finished film.

With the secret of the plot known well already by a vast majority of audiences, the film must rely on the performances and the visuals. The production design is topnotch once the action shifts to Stepford. Kidman does a good job, and though her character is somewhat one note she does the best with a bad situation; Broderick plays the straight man rather well. The supporting cast fares better with Glenn Close and Christopher Walken being themselves, and that is about as good as it gets. Midler all but steals the show with her satirical and quick-tempered Bobbi, one of the true highlights of the film.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is well done, though there are a few slight flaws that arise throughout. The image does suffer from a soft look that may well be intentional. Colors have a nice depth and the bright ones are especially rich with no bleeding evident. Edge enhancement is never a real problem but there are some slight instances of pixelation noticeable.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is surprisingly average given that the film does offer some strong music cues and some effects that would seem to be at home in the split surround speakers. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout with no distortion, while the surround speakers do offer some music cues. The .1 LFE track offers rich and deep bass in some of the more tension filled scenes while the left and right speakers do a nice job of recreating the musical score.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Frank Oz
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Gag Reel
Extras Review: The most substantial extra feature on the DVD release of The Stepford Wives is a commentary track by director Frank Oz. While I was hoping that Oz would delve into the problems that plagued the movie, disappointingly he only briefly skirts the issue—I suppose it would be too much to expect Oz to break down and tell all of the details. He does, however, delve into the production of the film and some of the stylistic choices and so on. He too often falls into a pattern of repeating the action of what is happening on screen as well as praising the cast over and over again.

A collection of one documentary and four featurettes is offered and while they don't offer much in the way of information they are solid promotional pieces. The documentary is a 20-minute look into the making of the film and, as per usual, there are interviews and some behind-the-scenes footage that are too fluffy to be interesting. The remaining featurettes are each a different view of Stepford, including the history of the phrase and its meaning today; a look at the wives and the husbands; and the production design.

Six deleted scenes are offered and while one might expect the now famous excised footage to be included, it is not. Instead, this is a collection of extensions and cutaways that never really amount to anything. Finally, a gag reel, the teaser, and the theatrical trailer are offered.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

The 2004 version of The Stepford Wives is a jumbled mess of a picture that offers a few small delights, but a handful of problems. The performances are done well and the abundant extra features are nice on this DVD, but one has to hope that maybe someday the original cut will see the light of day... and maybe then we will have the true version of The Stepford Wives.

 


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