A Movie Revival? Coit-ainly!
I must recuse myself as not being the biggest fan of the original Three Stooges comedy team and the shorts that made them so famous. I always thought the act amounted to little more than a one-trick pony; there’s only so much face-slapping, head-pounding, eye-poking, nyuk-nyuking, and woo-wooing I can take before it becomes stale and repetitive. If you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all – the occasional tweaks to the act notwithstanding. Knowing this, I find myself in the position of reviewing The Farrelly Brothers’ The Three Stooges, which isn’t a biopic but a revival in which new actors replace Moe Howard, Curly Howard, and Larry Fine as their knuckleheaded alter egos. True to form, the film is a juvenile comedy that features scene after scene after scene of relentless, over the top slapstick.
I’m well aware that there are audiences that live for this kind of filmmaking, and I will not begrudge them for having a little fun. But by my sensibilities, the film is just as much a one-trick pony as the original shorts, and it gets old after around ten minutes. In specific instances, the Farrelly Brothers are wildly wrong in what they think is funny. Consider, for example, a scene that occurs after the Stooges infiltrate a hospital; when they find themselves in the nursery ward, they get into a water fight, except it isn’t water, and they use newborn babies instead of plastic pistols. There’s also the scene in which Larry accidentally tosses a peanut into the blowhole of a dolphin, forcing Curly to perform the Heimlich maneuver. And then there’s the scene in which all three Stooges turn a golf course into a salmon farm – which in this case translates as rows of helpless fish flapping away on the lawn and getting the occasional drink from a water can.
To give credit where credit is due, Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, and Will Sasso do a very good job with their depictions of Moe, Larry, and Curly respectively. It’s not just in their voices, although that is key; it’s also in their physicality, which is a must if you’re playing a Stooge. Every slap, poke, and body slam had to be planned ahead of time, and I’m sure that trust, listening, and understanding were required of them all. It all comes down to choreography, and the trio has it down pat. Having said all that, I was even more impressed with Skyler Gisondo, Lance Chantiles-Wertz, and Robert Capron, who play the Stooges as ten-year-old boys. If they’re this good at doing impressions at such a young age, imagine what they will be like when they’re ten to twenty years older.
The plot is divided into three titled episodes, although I really didn’t see why this was necessary, as all of them are mere chapters of the same overarching story. After being zipped in a duffle bag and unceremoniously dumped on the doorstep of a secluded Catholic orphanage, the Stooges grow up as unadoptable lunkheads. This is much to the chagrin of the staff, which includes Mother Superior (Jane Lynch), Sister Rosemary (Jennifer Hudson), and the perpetually peeved Sister Mary-Mengele (Larry David). Twenty-five years after their arrival (at which point the Stooges are adult men but the Sisters look exactly the same age), the orphanage faces foreclosure and eviction. This is because, after a lifetime of the Stooges causing accidents, no insurance company will offer coverage. The only solution is $890,000, which must be collected in a month’s time.
Determined to save their home, the Stooges venture off into the world, where they stick out like a sore thumb, and try any harebrained scheme to make money. As this is happening, a spoiled woman named Lydia (Sophia Vergara) ropes the unwitting trio into a plot to murder her husband, a wealthy lawyer named Teddy (Kirby Heyborne), who just happens to be from the same orphanage as the Stooges. Also involved is Lydia’s boyfriend, Mac (Craig Bierko), who inevitably becomes the one guy that ends up in a full-body cast with his jaws wired shut. Eventually, Moe will quite by accident be added to the cast of Jersey Shore. I have to admit, there is something perversely hilarious about Moe slapping the hell out of Snooki, The Situation, and JWoww.
The Three Stooges isn’t worth recommending, although there are specific scenes I enjoyed at a superficial level. One is when the entire cast of Jersey Shore has an argument with the producers: “Wait a minute,” says Sammi, coming to a disturbing realization, “you’re saying that this whole show is all about ratings?” And then there’s an epilogue sequence in which two muscular men who are clearly not the Farrelly Brothers (but claim to be them anyway) demonstrate that every physical gag seen in the film is not real and shouldn’t be tried at home. They even show how the eye-poking effect is achieved, first in real time and then in slow motion. Truth be told, I’m not sure who this information would benefit. It seems pretty unlikely to me that diehard Stooges fans wouldn’t already know.