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Keeping Spouse

Re-imagined ‘Stepford Wives’ isn’t the best reboot, but do you know what it really means?

In The Stepford Wives, Director Frank Oz marries camp to dark comedy and the cinematic marriage is deliciously wicked. This “re-imagined” Wives is much more playful than 1975 version, which showcased doomed housewife Kathyrn Ross trying to fit in among the suddenly robotic, truly bizarre housewives in the town of Stepford, Conn. Here, Nicole Kidman takes center stage and, shows off her acting prowess. Unfortunately, it never reallty helps the movie. True, it’s a comedic Kidman that audiences haven’t seen before but something about it all of it seems forced. Matthew Broderick co-stars, playing a hubby in need of good romance. Meanwhile, Bette Midler and Glenn Close try not to steal the show. GT dissected the flick (**) in an attempt to understand its broader meaning. Here’s what we came up with:

The Post-feminism Slap In The Face: As the hyper, shoot-from-the-hip network exec, Joanna Eberhand’s (Kidman) botched reality show idea suddenly finds her living in the land of “nervous breakdown.” Hubby Walter (Broderick) decides it’s the perfect time to uproot the family—two kids in tow—and head for calmer ground in the Connecticut town of Stepford. Unbeknowst to the Eberhand is what the husbands of Stepford have done to all their wives, which is, basically implant Star Trekian electronic implants into their brains so that the wives can obey the commands of the hubbies.  What it means:  Gloria Steinem’s work will never be done.

You Push My Buttons, I Push Yours: Often, the Stepford Wives are contolled by a shiny, golden remote. What it means:  Like any channel-clicker-hogging, beer-guzzling, dirty T-shirt-wearing butch guy who hasn’t worked out his mommy angst, some men still have to have the illusion of being in control of the relationship.

Three’s Company: Bette Midler and Roger Bart co-star alongside Kidman and the three are in cahoots to uncover the dastardly Stepford secret. What it means: A brainy gal, a jewish diva and a gay man can be the perfect troika.

Equal Lack-of-Rights For Gays: Now that we’ve been Queer Eye’d all the way to the Clinque counter and Will and Grace is so mainstream—and with gay marriage becoming common—gays are not left out of the picture here—one side of a gay couple in Wives will ultimately tap into his inner robotic self. What it means: In the town of Stepford, it’s “spousal abuse for all, honey!”

Deconstructing The Diva: Bette Midler shines here as new resident/wisecracking author Bobbie Markowitz, but her snooping around eventually bugs hubby Dave (Jon Lovitz) and town patriach Mike Wellington (Christopher Walken) so much that it jeopardizes her fate. What it means: Men still have trouble being the wind beneath a women’s wings.

Town Stud: Stepford’s man-of-action is Mike Wellington. It appears that he has the power to create a gaggle of robotic wives and convince his dweeby male posse that there’s nothing wrong with it. The lesson: Men need to be attracted to the man’s man.

Ready For Her Close-Up: As town matriarch Claire Wellington, Glenn Close looks pretty, acts perky and bonds with all the town’s housewives. Ultimately, she steals the show. What it means: You can take the actress out of Sunset Boulevard, but you can’t take the “Sunset Boulevard” out of the actress.

Honey, How Are My Kids? While there’s a few kids running around Stepford, we never really see much of the little ones. What it means: When you toss a good “cocktail party,” it’s best to lock up the kids in the basement—sure, a smarter, crueler town would have turned the kids into robots, but let’s not get icky here.

When Men Get Mad: When Kidman’s Joanna finds herself backed into a corner by all the town’s male control freaks, things look grim. Meanwhile Hubby Walter looks on and says he’s miffed over not being appreciated or loved, meaning, he won’t really mind having a robotic honey. What it means: When really troubled, married men feel totally wounded, they’d settle for a blow-up doll rather than work through their issues with their mates.

Love, Stepford Style: Before fate knocks on her already battered down door, Kidman’s Joanna turns to her emotionally distant hubby and asks if he’d ever “feel” the same type of love she’s capable of offering when she’s “gone.”  What it means: It’s hard to let go of unavailable men.

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