Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Oh My God, It's Hank From I Can Do Better!" or The Stepford Wives (2004)

The 2004 redux of The Stepford Wives is full of fail and stupid, possesses a jaw-droppingly bad script, and is, without a doubt, the worst excuse for a remake ever, in any genre. It's also kind of a stretch to call it horror. I mean, it's pretty horrible, yes. But it's also not technically a genre film." But alas, the original was a horror film, and so here we are.
You may notice that some bitchin' shades* have been placed over Nicole Kidman's eyes on the poster there. Why, you ask? Because I didn't like the way they were looking at me, and to look upon them creeped me out. Creeped ME out. Google the poster and look at them if you want. Go on, I'll wait.

OMG, did you see? Did you see the way she's trying to suck out your very soul with those eyes? Now picture THOSE EYES on a 15 foot tall cardboard standee. Yeah.

Moving on. For a movie with such a big name cast, this really feels like fifteen chimpanzees wrote it in sections. I really would love to know what kind of dirt the producers of this turkey had on Nicole for her to agree to even appear in it, much less star. Clearly, she must have run over a busload of babies and puppies, and Paramount knew about it, but Paramount isn't just gonna keep it to Paramount's self. Maybe you star in this here remake picture, maybe this all disappears. *Takes deep breath, stops stealing jokes from Family Guy*

Seriously, there's no other possible explanation. Girlfriend had just won an Oscar recently for The Hours, and she followed up that performance with THIS? Not to mention Bette Midler, Glenn Close...Christopher Walken, for God's sake. I mean, what the hell. WHAT the HELL? Perhaps I should stop ranting and start recapping so that you may finally see the true meaning of the word "atrocity."

The Stepford Wives begins with an opening credits sequence set to clips of 1950s women doing 1950s women things. Cooking, cleaning, marveling over the efficiency of their new oven as they bake delicious muffins, and so on and so forth. This fades out to show an assembly of some sort in which Joanna Eberhart (Nicole) is presenting to an excited audience the new fall lineup of her television network, EBS. This basically consists of cheesy reality show parodies, culminating in a contestant from a cheating spouse show called 'I Can Do Better' showing up in person and attempting to shoot Joanna for ruining his life. This is an understandable thing to do, as we are only 10 minutes in and Joanna is effing irritating already. Seriously, she isn't even phased that she just narrowly escaped a bullet in her generously botoxed face. That is, until she is informed that the bad publicity this will undoubtedly generate for the network means that she is fired. Oh no you didn't!
Oh, yes they did. Also, the camera focuses on that exact shot for like 5 minutes, making me want to squirm and look away. Joanna ends up in the hospital for a nervous breakdown, where she is visited by her husband, Walter. Walter is played by Matthew Broderick, who is one of the only cast members I would actually expect to be in a movie like this, seeing as how he hasn't done much of interest since 1986, The Producers excepted. Walter tells Joanna that she has his undying love and support in much the same way he might read off items on a grocery list. As he proves time and time again, Matthew's monotone line delivery is matched by few on earth.

Joanna admits that she may have indeed become a ball busting bitch in the years since she started her career, and that perhaps Hank from 'I Can Do Better' was right to try to lodge a bullet in her brain. Walter doesn't exactly dispute this, much to my amusement. Anyway, the next scene has Joanna, Walter, and their two inconsequential children in the car on the way to Stepford, Connecticut to begin life anew. Great. They arrive at their new house and are greeted by Claire, the realtor (Glenn Close, clearly cashing a paycheck here).

Claire, demonic smile pasted onto her face in every shot, shows the family around their new house and points out all the fuckawesome features it possesses, including a talking refrigerator and a robotic dog fresh from the computer of some guy in the CGI department. The very next morning, Joanna awakes to find the entire house is already furnished with only the finest Ikea. Totally not weird. She then meets up with Claire at the Simply Stepford Day Spa, where she is introduced to the town's wives. Something is not quite right with these ladies, as Joanna can clearly see, since they are exercising in dresses and pearls. Like Stepford Wives, as it were. Not gonna lie though, I would totally wear their dresses. Take a look at how purdy they are.

Anyway, in one of the most horrific things I have ever seen on screen ever, Claire leads the Wives in their daily exercise routine, where they pretend to be washing machines. Washing machines with two left feet.

Meanwhile, Walter has found his way to the Stepford Men's Association, where all the town's husbands gather 'round to relax from the jobs they don't have, drink beer, and bet each other on stupid things, as men are apparently wont to do in the Stepford universe. Several disembodied hands wave from the doorway and encourage him to come on in and join the menfolk. Cut to the Stepford 4th of July picnic. Everybody is there, decked out in their Stepford best. Joanna and Walter arrive with the kids and are swarmed by four Stepford Wives, who make suggestive comments regarding how well Walter fills out his pants. Gross.

Enter Bobbi Markowitz and her husband, Dave. Bobbi is an author and a rebel from the wrong side of the tracks. Joanna recognizes Bobbi from the cover of her book, and Walter and Dave are apparently already acquainted with each other via the Men's Association. Friendships are formed. We meet our last main character in the form of Roger, who is a living, breathing example of every stereotype you've ever heard about gay men. This seems to be too much for his boyfriend, Jerry, who is a stern sort of fellow and wishes Roger would tone it down. Oy. Conveniently, both Joanna and Bobbi know of Roger, as he is a big shot architect in NYC, and he knows of them. And so, our plucky trio of protagonists is complete. The three are having a fine time bitching together about how totally lame Stepford is, when Claire and a giant megaphone interrupt. It's time for some Stepford Square Dancin'.

I'm starting to think I'm going to need a glass or two of spiked lemonade to get through this movie. Where was I? Oh yeah, square dancing. Yay. All the Stepfordians are totes into it. Naturally, our sardonic trio spend the whole time looking around disdainfully. They're from New York, dammit. They shouldn't have to witness something so stupid as square dancing. Apparently sensing that looking like three sullen teenagers at a family reunion the same day as the Popular Kid pool party might just look a tad rude, they at least attempt some dancing. But they make sure to look displeased. Things get interesting, however, when a Wife, Sarah, suddenly starts spinning out of control and rapidly muttering phrases like "Yippee-kye-ay" and "Do-si-do." She even sparks. Almost as if she were a ROBOT or something. Hmmm...

Claire's husband, Mike, enters the scene and instructs everyone to back away please, nothing to see here. And as a wall of men hide what he's doing from Joanna, he does something that resets Sarah and all is well. Except for that fact that Joanna is all "Whaaa?" and "But she was sparking!" She then insists that she should accompany Sarah to a hospital. Um, why? Are you a doctor? Oh, you're a television producer? Ok, then shut the fuck up. Mike and Claire want Joanna to drop it already and are like "She'll be FINE!"

That night, Joanna and Walter have a fight wherein she insists something is up with the town's women and he's like "Whatever, crazy lady." Then they have a heartfelt chat where they reveal what they love most about each other. Joanna loves Walter's stupid victory dance when he wins at computer chess, and Walter, come to think of it, he didn't actually say what he loves most about Joanna. So, hmmmm. He does, however, give her some advice and suggests that maybe instead of staring disapprovingly at the Stepford women all the time, maybe she should dress like them and try to act just like them instead. Seriously? I would have kicked him in the nuts for that. But not Joanna, it would seem. No, she's going to give this whole Stepford thing the good old college try. So she tries it on Bobbi and Roger the next morning.

Naturally, they're like "OMG, where's your black clothing???" Joanna explains that she's going to at least try to fit in here, and suggests that maybe the three of them should go visit that Sarah chick and see how she's keeping since her sparking episode the day before. Bobbi and Roger, being from New York and all, roll their eyes exasperatedly, but agree to this. They knock on Sarah's door to find it already open, so they just mosey on in. They are greeted to the sounds of Sarah and her husband having loud sex. No snark, I really love Bobbi's reactions to the noises. Gotta love Bette Midler. Back to snark. They find what looks suspiciously like a sex toy with the name 'Sarah' emblazoned on it. It's actually a remote control. I smell a comic situation! As Sarah descends the stairs to fetch nachos for her man, Joanna and Co. are screwing around with the remote, causing Sarah's boobs to swell several cup sizes in a comedic manner. Almost like she's a ROBOT.

The Three Amigos don't notice this and take off, giggling, to Bobbi's house. Joanna and Roger are horrified by Bobbi's house, which looks like the worst episode of Hoarders ever. Joanna manages to convince Roger and Bobbi that hey, maybe they should follow her lead and try to be model Stepfordians. Oh, I think they will, Joanna. Sooner than you think.

Meanwhile, at the Men's Association, the men are racing toy cars with bras tied to the antenna. Because the men in this town are all eleven years old. Walter remarks to the men how awesomely robotic their wives are. Meanwhile meanwhile, Joanna, Bobbi, and Roger are trying their hand at a Stepford Women's Book Club meeting as part of the whole "fitting in" agenda. Claire informs them all that today, they are discussing the most awesome book EVARR. Namely, a big ol' book catalogue of Christmas collectibles. She even throws Bobbi a bone and explains that there's a whole chapter about Hanukkah. Wow. And then....they sing. Seriously.

In the words of Clark Griswold, "Merry Christmas...holy shit." Back at the Men's Association, Mike asks Walter how Joanna is adjusting to Stepford. Walter says that he really thinks Joanna is ready for a change. Nudge nudge, wink wink. The guy who lost the Toy Car Race earlier remembers that he owes Walter 20 bucks and calls for his wife. Wifey appears, takes Hubby's credit card, sticks it in her mouth, and quite literally spits out a wad of cash.

Why she spit out twenty $1 bills instead of one $20 bill is beyond me, but there it is. No doubt about it now, the Stepford women are ROBOTS. Like you didn't know. Walter has a look on his face that could be horror, fascination, or possibly constipation as he accepts his $20. Oookay.

To her credit, Joanna really is trying her best at this whole Stepford wackiness. For instance, as I watch her right now, she is taking a batch of cupcakes out of the oven for her daughter's day camp the next day. How sweet and mom-like of her. Then the camera pans out to show us that this batch of cupcakes is actually just the latest of the 90 billion she has made that day. Wow. Joanna, sweetie....I think you're out-Stepfording the Stepford Wives there. Just a tad.

Bobbi and Dave show up, and Dave whisks Walter away to a Men's Association meeting. Bobbi convinces Joanna that they should follow their men and see what goes on at such a meeting, just for shits and giggles. Joanna is reluctant to leave her cupcakes, but agrees. The women find their way into the house and come across a hall of portraits, each featuring a creepily grinning Stepford family. Interesting. They hear footsteps following them and get all scared until they realize it's just Roger screwing with them. Soon, they hear more footsteps approaching and hide. To make a long story short (too late!), Roger is led into a dark room by the men and, presumably, turned into a ROBOT. Too bad the girls didn't witness this, as we could end this movie right now and not have 40 more minutes of them trying to solve the mystery. But anyhoo...

Two days later, after not hearing from Roger since the Hall of Portraits, Joanna and Bobbi go over to his house to see what the hell is up. Nobody answers the door, but they make a startling discovery in the trash can outside: everything that makes Roger a stereotypical gay man has been tossed. Some shirts by Dolce, Gucci, and Versace, a framed picture of Orlando Bloom, a Playbill for 'Hairspray', and a T shirt featuring that other Lord of the Rings guy are among the discarded treasures. Why, what could this mean? (He's now a ROBOT and has no need for those things, would be my guess). Now that he is a ROBOT, Roger is running for some political office or another. And Joanna is officially fed up with this back asswards town.

She pleads with Walter to join her as she leaves Stepford and never looks back. He doesn't wanna go, but relents eventually and agrees that they can leave the next day. Yeah, right. I suspect that Walter is up to no good. No good at all. That night, Joanna is awoken from a sound sleep by the little CGI dog, who has something in his adorable CGI mouth. Whatever could it be? Why, it's one of the hilarious looking remote controls, the very kind we saw in Sarah's house earlier. And it says 'Joanna' on it. Hmm. I wonder WHAT is going ON. No I don't.

Joanna gets up and does some research on the internets. Turns out all the Stepford women were at one time high-powered career women. Every last one. And now they all do the washing machine exercise dressed like June Cleaver. Gee, that's not suspicious at all. The next day, Joanna heads over to Bobbi's house to have a "Let's get The Fuck Out Of Here" meeting. Unfortunately, Bobbi is...not quite herself today.

And her home is spotless. Oh noes! Joanna realizes she's on her own around the time Bobbi rests her hand on the hot stove with nary a reaction. Although, wouldn't that kind of ruin her ROBOTic inner workings? Whatever. I shouldn't expect logic from this movie by this point. Joanna goes to pick up the kids so she can get out of town, and discovers that Walter has already got them. Uh-ohs. She speeds over to the Man's Association, ready to kick some ass, and is surrounded by Stepford men. Walter steps up and makes a little speech about how Joanna has always had the bigger balls ever since they were married, and quite frankly, he is sick of it. All the men voice their agreement with this. Mike then shows up and offers to show Joanna exactly what they plan to do to her before it actually gets done. Yay.

According to Mike's educational video, the Stepford women are taken into a lab, where microchips are implanted in their brains in order to alter their personality. That's it. WHAT THE HELL? Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Then what exactly is the deal with the remote controls and the ATM Of The Magical $1 Bills? All the evidence clearly points to ROBOTS, not brain microchips. To add insult to injury, they follow this by showing Joanna the prototype for her new ROBOT body.

I believe that not ONE person involved in this production, from the script writer to the director to Nicole Kidman to the effing lighting guy, looked at the script and said, "This doesn't make any fucking sense." Not a single soul caught this glaring plot hole. I really have no words. I am speechless. Ahem. Joanna makes a heartfelt speech to Walter about robots being unable to love or some shit, and pleads with him not to do it as she, Walter, and ROBOT Joanna are lowered down into the secret lab. Wow, really? Mike didn't come with to make sure everything went ok? Seems like shoddy quality control.

Now that Joanna is officially a Stepford Wife, it's time for a super duper important ball to honor the occasion. As Joanna dances with Mike, Walter steals away to the secret underground lab. Hmmm. What IS he doing? Well....what he's doing is deprogramming the microchips for every Stepford woman. Apparently, the Men's Association has top notch security for the room where they house the mainframe for their very way of life. Seriously, why are there not armed guards? Inquiring minds want to know. This is roughly the equivalent of leaving the Hope Diamond in the middle of a Chuck E. Cheese ball pit. So, as the microchips are deprogrammed, the woman all return completely back to normal. Because they are NOT ROBOTS, or anything, despite being able to touch fire and dispense cash from their mouths. Really, I have to ask one more they think we are stupid? Do they? DO THEY? *Takes a deep breath* Whatever. I'm sticking to the ROBOT story because microchips make no damn sense at all and I refuse to acknowledge them.

The woman, naturally, are fucking pissed and are surrounding their men in an angry mob. Hee. Mike attempts to control the situation and is confronted by Joanna and Walter, who reveal that Joanna is not, in fact, a ROBOT/microchip wife after all. Walter didn't have the heart to do it (all together now: Aaaaaaaw). They merely pretended to turn her into one in order to infiltrate the mainframe and deprogram everybody. This begs the question of what exactly happened to the ROBOT Joanna body? Did they get rid of it? They must kill the real women before putting the finishing touches on the ROBOTS, so did anyone notice that a body didn't turn up? I'm confused and befuddled.

Following this rocking confession, Mike decides that Walter must pay for undermining the Stepford way. He goes to knock him out with a brass candle stick, and Joanna is like "No effing way" and swings at Mike with a candlestick of her own, and.....Mike's head sparks and falls off.

So, Mike was a ROBOT the whole time, and Claire was a human. Claire, you see, was once a big shot doctor or something and never had time for family. Then one day she caught Mike cheating on her with his pretty, blonde secretary, and so she turned him into a ROBOT and founded the town of Stepford so that all the women could be perfect and thus cheat-proof. Or something. She kisses Mike's decapitated ROBOT head and is electrocuted. Lovely. I am so embarrassed for Glenn Close.

In a move that proves without a doubt that the writers had no idea where to go from there, everything gets wrapped up neatly in a Larry King interview. No, really. Joanna, Bobbi, and Roger all appear on the show to tell the audience how they're doing since their ordeal. Joanna produced a documentary, Bobbi wrote a book, and Roger is running for state senate. Yawn. The final scene of the film shows the Stepford Husbands, minus Walter, shopping in the Stepford grocery store and lamenting that they'll be in trouble if they bring home the wrong paper towels. Aaaaaaand the end.

I gladly hand over a crown of Kraft Cheese to The Stepford Wives. Enjoy your honor and wear it with pride.

*Special thanks to mi amiga Danielle for being a buddy and editing the poster for me :)


Sadako said...

It sounds awful, but it's sad because the book was so great.

Heh--loved that you put shades over the eyes. With good reason, too.

Angela_Baker said...

The book really was awesome, as was the original movie. That's what makes me so sad over this remake. It was a wasted opportunity.

TJovian said...

I didn't really consider this to be a remake. The book and the original were meant to leave you creeped out whereas this version was so campy (HELLO?! Bette Midler?) there's no way it would fit in the horror genre. I love the movie and watch it for a good laugh every now and again. Definitely not a movie I would consider watching when in one of my more serious or dark moods.