Kidman isn’t a bad actress, but she doesn’t exactly exude warmth. She nevertheless overshadows Broderick, both in height and in performance. Close’s character is but a caricature, until it lapses into cartoon silliness at the end. So it’s Midler and Bart, as the feminist and the gay guy, who steal the show. Midler’s lines (including a racy one about a pinecone) are the best in the film, which is short on dialogue and long on lectures. Bart, however, gives a few good laughs as a clichéd but funny “flamer” (a gay man who acts feminine).

The biggest problem with this movie, however, is its message, which tries too hard to drive the political points home in ways that are likely to be offensive to conservatives, non-working wives and mothers, Republicans and even, ironically, gays, who are lampooned with alarming harshness. And that’s not including the strong language, sexuality and themes which are wholly inappropriate for children.

"The Stepford Wives” missed a great opportunity to update its message and speak to the very modern issue of what it means to be real in a superficial world. It also could have explored what postmodern husbands expect of their wives, in terms of love, honor and respect, as they face the shared responsibilities of family life in an increasingly hectic society. Instead, this movie skids along, barely making it to first base, until it is finally declared “foul.”


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