A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Stepford Wives is a remake of a '70s horror film that goes for comedy rather than scares, yet still has some material within that may traumatize younger viewers. Chief among them is a grisly scene in which a main character is revealed to be a robot and his head detaches from his body while his wife cradles and kisses the head. There are also many menacing situations involving moms, including a scene where a main character is shot at, and one where she confronts a robotic replica of herself. A gay man in the movie asserts he's not a "sissy" or "effeminate," and one painfully lengthy scene listens in on a husband and wife having very noisy sex, capped with a long climactic scream. Many characters drink and smoke and there are references to prescription drug abuse. Luxury brands from Gucci to Rolex are mentioned approvingly, and Nicole Kidman's character prominently uses a Macintosh computer.
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What's the story?
THE STEPFORD WIVES centers on Joanna (Nicole Kidman), who moves with her husband Walter (Matthew Broderick) into to the idyllic gated community of Stepford, Connecticut, where everything seems just a little bit too perfect. The women are all Barbie-doll-like and wait on their husbands with adoring smiles. Presiding over them all is Claire (Glenn Close). Joanna's only confidantes are two other new arrivals, outspoken author Bobbi (Bette Midler) and caustic gay man Roger (Roger Bart). Joanna is appalled, but wonders if she's missing something. All of the Stepford husbands seem very happy, while Walter is ready to leave her. So she gets to work, making zillions of cupcakes and checking up on one of her neighbors who had a seizure at a recent party. Joanna thought she saw sparks coming from the neighbor's ears, but Roger reassures her that it was just cheap jewelry. When Bobbi and Roger are completely transformed, she decides to find out what is going on in the mysterious Stepford men's club.
Is it any good?
Less a movie than a string of jokes, this comedy remake of the 1975 thriller loses some momentum in the middle when it seems unsure of its point of view. When Joanna suddenly seems to remember that she has children and she cares about them, it is not clear whether this is just another comic contrivance or an attempt to create some sort of character growth.
A surprising twist at the end helps to add a little zest. And the idea that a generation later, some women might consider escaping their "over-stressed/over-burdened/under-loved" lives to return to a simpler world of domestic perfection is an idea that deserves some exploration. Maybe by the next time they remake this story, the Stepford wife will be the one who has figured out how to make it all balance.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why a thriller plot from 29 years ago makes more sense as a comedy today. How are both versions inspired by the conflicting pressures on both men and women? What do you think about what the movie has to say about defining success and happiness? About perfection not really working?
Who is the target audience for this movie? How can you tell?
- In theaters: June 11, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: November 9, 2004
- Cast: Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick, Nicole Kidman
- Director: Frank Oz
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, thematic material and language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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