Another Review from a Test Audience Member of the “Stepford Wives” (Spoilers)

Mister D: This came from Harry Knowles, Ain’t It Cool News site. There’s also a scathing review there with just too many spoilers for me to print here. Always take reviews for what they are…people’s subjective opinions. One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor (Paul Simon)

“Stepford Wives” wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t even the worst film I’ve seen this month, let alone this year. Kidman was really strong, and Midler was about the best she’s ever been. (I should say I can only take her in small doses, and this seemed to be just the right amount). I can’t even imagine working up the level of disdain for this film that this guy just did. It’s an entertaining film with decent-to-good comic performances and about a half-dozen big laughs. It’s not nearly as dark as the original, but sexual politics have changed in the last 30 years, so it doesn’t really need to be.

If I did have a criticism, it’s that the film can’t seem to stick to the go-for-broke attitude that it sometimes hints at, but never reaches. Right at the opening, with Kidman presenting her new slate of shows for her network, it hedges its bets. The shows are all reality program parodies. The premises of each: Divorce Court (where the parents have to compete for the affection of their children), Balance of Power (a quiz show where men and women just kind of one-up each other) and “I Can Do Better” (“Temptation Island”, where one married couple spends a week apart, with prostitutes). The set-up is funny, but the breakdown turns out to have less teeth than the TV show parodies in “Stay Tuned”. Seriously.

The problem is obvious: the parodies don’t even go as far as the shows being parodied. The film looks like it’s aiming for a PG-13. If it wanted to be really cutting, it’d have to go for an “R”. In the age of internet porn, you’d think they could have found more provocative targets in the war of the sexes. Instead it goes right to what it views as the heart of it: men are afraid of Martha Stewart. Not.

On the other hand, the cast: Midler, Kidman, Walken & Glenn Close all give entertaining performances. Broderick & Lovitz are underused. The gay pal of Kidman is very funny. Even Faith Hill does well with what she’s given. The script is mild, the direction is slick and the ending (obviously tacked on even if you haven’t seen the original) is amusing enough thanks to a fairly high-octane freak-out from Glenn Close.

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