The Stepford Wives (1975)
Ira Levin’s book The Stepford Wives isn’t quite as showy as Rosemary’s Baby. Where the latter is gothic and urban, Stepford Wives takes place in the suburbs and while it has a very similar set-up (a cult gas-lights a young lady when she moves into a new home) the villain of the piece is far more frightening than the devil.
Equal parts Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Harvest Home, Stepford Wives is the story of a little idyllic town and the group of men who have disappeared so far into a misogynistic haze that they’ve all killed their wives and replaced them with idealized robot versions. It’s a pure feminist horror story and really drags patriarchy and the fantasy of the suburbs and rubs their face in the mud.
The movie sands a lot of those edges off and changes the ending up. It’s still horrific and chilling but not nearly as much as the book is. The characters just aren’t as fleshed out and human as they are in the book so the comparison between the two versions does not favor the movie.
The Stepford Wives (2004)
Frank Oz directed the 2004 remake of Stepford Wives and I honestly have no clue what he was thinking. Yes, he’d done a goofy pop-art comedy remake of Little Shop of Horrors but that mostly worked because the original movie was so cheesy and bad. The Stepford Wives had mis-steps but it doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with this rotten thing.
This movie is crass and mean, the original novel was a blackhearted satire about male oppression that the movie more or less stuck with. This is a broad comedy and it lacks any real internal logic. The movie sports a great cast of Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Roger Bart, Glen Close, Christopher Walken, and Matthew Broderick but the movie boils over with ugly stereotypes and completely ruins the point of the story. It’s a satire of a satire and you can’t mock what was already a joke to begin with. This is just an abysmally bad movie and even with every single person involved with this production hungrily chomping down scenery to get the (badly stated) point across, it falls flat on its face.
Is it a good remake?
No! It’s trash. It completely misses the point of the story, turns the social themes at play into cartoonish representations of straw feminism versus sitcom-caliber men are pigs nonsense and then feints at the last minute to “well, actually, women are to blame!” Also apparently in this version the men aren’t murdering their wives and replacing them with robots but somehow their totally not-robot wives can do ridiculous things that no human could physically do?
Does it stand on its own?
I really don’t know who this is for. I feel like whether you’re a feminist or not you’re going to find something to hate here and this movie really just is crude and ugly and the fact that it decides to try and go for broad comedy just really sinks it.
Watch, Toss, or Buy?