The Stepford Wives (2004)

(On DVD, March 2005) When considering America’s evils, the culture war between conformity and individualism is far more important than the so-called battle between the sexes. The satiric potential of obedient wives may have found its audience in 1975 (hey, that’s the year I was born!), but thirty years later, it’s wasted when it’s placed besides such juicier targets as the need to conform to outdated ideals. This remake misses the point and yet, in its last five minutes, shows signs of at least understanding that. Rumours of last-minutes re-shoots may have something to do with the incoherency, but as it stands, The Stepfords Wives is a mish-mash of half-gelled ideas, contradictory information (what; robots and control chips?), lame gags, idiot plotting, absent suspense and groan-inducing developments. Watching this film today, after years of training in watching suspense movies, is an exercise in seething exasperation: how can characters act so stupidly? How can they miss the obvious clues? Gaah. A tiny argument can be made that this remake is really a parody, but that’s a hollow excuse for a bad film. At least Bette Midler is amusing in her un-Stepfordized character, and there’s maybe a handful of good laughs here and there. Otherwise, forget it: this film isn’t worth the aggravation of seeing the potential for good satire wasted on such tired subjects.

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