Worst Misuse of A-List Talent

With a marquee of prominent names that include Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken, Glenn Close, Bette Midler and Matthew Broderick, “The Stepford Wives” seemed like the must-see comedy of the summer. Yet when a film requires “a couple of additional shoots to sharpen up the story line,” as director Frank Oz told Entertainment Weekly, it is typically not a good sign.

The remake of the original 1975 satire about a community of suburban husbands who turn their wives into perfect robots proves to be a mediocre collection of one-liners. The film induces little cognition and, due to a lack of suspense and purpose, it has little redeeming value. Sadly, the main actors are, as usual, superb: Kidman skillfully transforms from an energized TV executive at the top of her game to a dejected bundle of nerves; Walken takes a typically zany and entertaining turn and Close hones in on her refined shrill madness. Others simply do not click: Broderick looks like he took a wrong turn when heading to the soundstage for “Ferris Bueller,” Midler’s character is overdone and loony, and Roger Bart, as the obligatory gay guy, at times seems to caricature Jack from “Will and Grace.” But these flaws may all stem from the fact that the actors simply did not have a witty script to work with.

“The Stepford Wives” is the new “Mars Attacks,” except the latter was clearly a spoof made for pure enjoyment. “Mars Attack” director Tim Burton actually allowed his formidable cast (including, among others, Jack Nicholson, Close, Annette Bening, Sarah Jessica Parker and Danny DeVito) to let loose and have a blast. For a satire, “The Stepford Wives” takes itself too seriously; for a clever comedy, the jokes are too flat and silly. Each actor looks painfully constricted in the mundane storyline.