Neither as laugh-out-loud funny as many had hoped for, nor as excruciatingly dreadful as most feared it would be, The Three Stooges - Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s long-gestating contemporary take on the trio of knuckleheads - hits the big screen like a sledge hammer to the noggin and a twin-finger poke to the peepers.
Relax though. It’s only a rubber hammer, and the fingers don’t actually make contact with the eyes, as we learn in an awkward but curious video postscript hosted by the Farrellys that warns young children not to attempt any of the film’s gags in real life. Curious, because in spite of its family-friendly PG rating, the audience is more likely to be made up of the 50-something over-laughing white guy than it is the youngster who has likely never even heard of The Three Stooges. My screening proved this out when the former maintained a din of guffaws, while a furious mother briskly escorted her misbehaving latter from the theater.
With comedies that run the gamut from the offbeat classic Kingpin, to more mainstream hilarity like There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber, the Farrelly’s will never be mistaken for clever comedy. Unapologetically, they don’t even try to make that kind of film. So, how do they miss so badly with the goofball, knuckle-dragging physical antics of Larry, Curly, and Moe? There’s a reason The Three Stooges found success in the comedy short rather than the feature-length film. Even with a more deeply-plotted story than the shorts ever had, the tired antics simply wear thin. Yes, even the biggest of die-hard Stooge-heads is unlikely to find 90-minutes of fun.
The film unspools in three episodes, each preceded with a throw-back title-card. That’s as clever as it ever gets up in here. We first meet Larry, Curly, and Moe as babies dropped on the steps of the Sisters of Mercy Orphanage run by nuns Mother Superior (Jane Lynch), Sister Rosemary (Jennifer Hudson), and sister Mary-Mengele (Larry David). Yes, David in his first gender-switching role. Don’t get too excited though. All he does is run around grousing as the butt-end of the Stooges’s physical antics. There’s nothing funny to see here, folks. From the get-go, the three kids already prove to be numskulls, deploying the perfectly placed finger-poke while still in diapers.
Jump to Episode two, several years later, where the nuns have been left bruised, battered, and bewildered. But it gets worse when we find out that the orphanage will likely be forced to close unless the sisters can come up with $830,000 in 30 days. Enter Larry, Curly, and Moe, now employed as the orphanage’s maintenance men, to the rescue.
Out of the orphanage and into the big city for the first time in their lives, the stooges run into a wealthy gold-digger named Lydia (Sofía Vergara) who offers them a chance to make some easy money: all they have to do is kill her husband, and the $830,000 is theirs. Reluctantly, the buffoons accept the offer, but naturally botch the murder. Soon, Larry, Curly, and Moe are reunited with a fellow orphan (Kirby Heyborne), his lawyer father (Stephen Collins) and the entire cast of Jersey Shore. Yes, that’s right, more airtime for Snooki!
It has been rumored that the likes of Jim Carrey, Sean Penn, Russell Crowe, Paul Giamatti, and even Mel Gibson were anxious for roles in the Stooges project. Instead, the Farrellys went B-list. It’s not like Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Will Sasso (Curly) or Sean Hayes (Larry) miss the mark with their channels. They don’t. And they all seem to be having great fun. But maybe we’d get a little something extra from a more well-established actor, or at least find another level of entertainment value in watching Benicio del Toro administer a perfectly-timed knuckle-slap to the noggin of Sean Penn.
As it is, The Three Stooges is a strange blend of adulatory homage and shoddy hack-job that does manage to rise above the insult the trailer promised, but is never capable of reinventing The Three Stooges for a new audience.
MPAA Rating: PG for slapstick action violence, some rude and suggestive humor including language.
Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Writer: Mike Cerrone and Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly
Cast: Chris Diamantopoulos; Will Sasso; Sean Hayes; Larry David, Jennifer Hudson; Jane Lynch
Tagline: Just Say Moe.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Don't forget to dot the i's."
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Site: www.threestooges.com/#/home
Release Date: April 13, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: January 11, 2011
Synopsis: While trying to save their childhood orphanage, Moe, Larry, and Curly inadvertently stumble into a murder plot and wind up starring in a reality TV show.
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