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Hollywood seems to be obsessed with re-makes at the moment; the past few years have seen various popular 70s and 80s movies rehashed, most of which have failed to live up to the standards of the originals. And so we ask, what is the point?  Earlier this year Frank Oz decided to remake the well known 70s movie, The Stepford Wives. The reported budget for this project was around $90 million, so it was a big risk to take. With a cast consisting of the likes of Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick and Christopher Walken there were many reputations at risk. The movie didn’t really set the box office tills ringing, but better results are expected from this DVD release.

Stepford Wives, The
Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) is a woman who thinks she has everything; her career as a TV executive is blossoming, and she also has a dependable family. However, things are about to fall dramatically apart. During a conference she is attacked by a disgruntled audience member and that turns out to be the catalyst for her losing her job. After having been given the news, Joanna suffers a nervous breakdown, and her husband Walter (Matthew Broderick) decides that a change is needed. The family move to a small town in Connecticut called Stepford. At first the town seems to be the perfect location for a well deserved rest, as it is peaceful and appears to be full of friendly faces. The women of the suburb are fondly referred to as Stepford Wives; they are what most men would consider as the perfect wife. They clean the house without complaint, they enjoy cooking and generally fulfil their husbands’ every desire. The men of Stepford have formed a secret group called the Stepford Men’s Association, run by Mike Wellington (Christopher Walken) who seems to have the respect of everyone in the town.

Joanna doesn’t settle well in her new surroundings, but things perk up a little when she befriends Bobbie (Bette Midler), another new resident in Stepford who doesn’t seem to conform to the traits of a typical Stepford Wife. It doesn’t take Joanna and Bobbie long to realise that there is something not quite right about Stepford. However, at the same time Bobbie undergoes a dramatic change into a typical Stepford Wife! Joanna is obviously alarmed by this but doesn’t know who to turn to, as her husband seems to have been brainwashed and the more she investigates, the more she uncovers truths she would rather not know about. Is there any escape for Joanna or will she become just another Stepford Wife?

Before watching this movie I took a look at the trailers (which can be found in the extras section) and lets just say I wasn’t impressed! Therefore I sat down to watch the main attraction with low expectations and I think those expectations were spot on. I haven’t seen the original version so I cannot comment on how they compare, however my wife has seen both movies and has a preference for the original. There are numerous reports regarding this movie; test screenings were not favourable and the final cut was edited considerably. The commentary with Frank Oz (found in the extras section on this disc) confirms that several scenes including the intro scene were re-shot only a few weeks before its theatrical release. While watching the movie I had the distinct feeling that the director couldn’t decide what genre he was targeting the movie at, the original movie was supposedly a sinister thriller, however this re-make lies somewhere between comedy and drama. To be brutally honest it fails at both in my opinion!

Stepford Wives, The
The only redeeming aspect of this movie is the cast which makes for impressive reading. The likes of Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Christopher Walken and Matthew Broderick all try their best with what is a weak script. The last year has seen Nicole Kidman’s career take a nosedive, but she comes out of this movie with some credit, while Midler and Walken can always be relied upon to deliver the goods. The Stepford Wives has a running time of around ninety minutes and while not being painfully boring it never exhilarates either. There will be some people who enjoy this movie, but if you are expecting something similar to the original then I’d imagine you will be left feeling disappointed. From the point of view of someone who hasn’t seen the original then I really can’t see the point of this remake. It is cumbersome, dreary and failed to make me laugh! I can think of far better movies to spend your hard earned money on this Christmas, so at best I would recommend this as a rental.

Dreamworks have presented The Stepford Wives in an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer, which is a pleasure to watch. Over the past year it has become increasingly harder to differentiate between DVD transfers; obviously you get some terrific ones and some awful transfers, but generally the standards are pretty high. You would expect a recent blockbuster to have a good transfer and this one doesn’t disappoint. Stepford is meant to be a colourful haven so you will be glad to hear that the colour palette for this transfer is vibrant and true. Skin tones are accurate and black levels, while not used very much, are solid when called upon. Detail levels are stunning, and there is very little evidence of grain. Compression artefacts are not an issue for most of the film and you will really struggle to find any faults with this transfer. I haven’t reviewed a Dreamworks release for a while so it is good to see that they are still producing first class transfers.

The audio aspect of this release is not so spectacular, but considering the genre that this movie falls into, that is no great surprise. You only get the one soundtrack with this disc; an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack which does everything that you could ask of it. This track is not going to test out your sound system but that doesn’t make it a bad audio track. There is very little noise from the surrounds but the dialogue levels are spot on and audible throughout. The musical score is also clear and overall this is a well constructed soundtrack.

Stepford Wives, The
Subtitles are only supplied in English, but there are also subtitles for the commentary as well (more about this in the section below). It is probably worth mentioning the menus which are static, but are complimented by the title music for the film. You will become familiar with this melody after watching the movie, so trust me when I say it becomes very annoying when you have to listen to it as well when navigating through the menus. That’s my little rant over with for this review!

The first extra you will come across on this disc is a Commentary by Director Frank Oz. This is the first commentary I have listened to by Frank Oz and I have to admit to being quite impressed. He tackles each issue in immense detail and he has just the right tone to keep the attention of audiences. I particularly enjoyed his discussion of the opening scene where he talks about the reasons for changing the beginning of the movie. It is common knowledge that a lot of the scenes from the movie had to be cut, and that the final cut differed considerably. This point is backed up by the commentary; there are many sections throughout the commentary which concentrate on parts of the movie which were cut. Whether you like the next extra will essentially come down to what you thought of the movie. It is entitled A Perfect World: The Making Of The Stepford Wives and as the title suggests it is a detailed behind the scenes look at how the movie was made. I personally found it to be quite boring, but the nineteen minute running time means that fans of the movie will find it very interesting.

This DVD is contains a handful of short featurettes and the first one is called Stepford: A Definition. This featurette lasts for just under four minutes and concentrates on giving the viewer a thorough definition of what a Stepford Wife is. Stepford: The Architects is a featurette about how the story came about for the movie. It is evident from this extra that the writers definitely wanted to create a completely different movie to the original and the reasons for this are well explained. This featurette lasts for six minutes. The next two extras are pretty similar, they are called The Stepford Wives and The Stepford Husbands. These are short featurettes which concentrate on the characters within the movie. Each featurette also has input from cast and crew members. If you are interested in learning more about the characters in this movie then you will find this extra of some interest.

No DVD these days is complete without a set of Deleted/Extended Scenes and this disc offers six in total. Each scene can be watched individually or altogether as a complete section. There are just over nine minutes of scenes, most of which are just extensions of scenes that were in the final cut. However, there is a slightly extended finale which is probably worth viewing. If you feel like a bit of amusement then you will enjoy the next extra which is called Stepford: Gag Reel. As the title suggests this is a collection of blooper clips which last in total for around four minutes. The most surprisingly thing about this extra is that Glenn Close is responsible for over half the bloopers! Rounding up the extras are a couple of Trailers. There is a teaser trailer and the theatrical trailer.

Stepford Wives, The
I’m a pretty easy to please when it comes to movies; I love watching films and very rarely consider the time wasted. However, even I found The Stepford Wives to be a wasted hour and a bit. It has very little going for it and not even a very talented cast can lift it above mediocrity. It is only a matter of time before Hollywood wakes up to the fact that re-makes are more often than not a waste of money. Hopefully failures like this will bring that time a little closer! While the film may be a disappointment, Dreamworks have produced a perfectly acceptable DVD release.  The transfer is striking, the soundtrack is adequate and the extras are a reasonable collection for fans of the movie. Based on the movie alone I struggle to recommend this disc, however if you feel a uncontrollable urge to purchase this title then at the very least wait until the January sales!