The original Three Stooges were made iconic by Moe Howard, Curly Howard (later replaced by brother Shemp Howard), and Larry Fine. They performed for years together on stage, TV, and every other available medium available to them. The Directors behind such comedies as Dumb & Dumber, Shallow Hal, and There's Something About Mary, The Farrelly Brothers, have taken it upon themselves to write and direct a new version of The Three Stooges, starring Sean Hayes as Larry, Will Sasso as Curly, and Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe. The three actors look the part, and act the part, and The Three Stooges is full of plenty of jokes, slapstick, and stunts to keep the mind occupied for the mere 90 minutes the film runs. It does not manage to create a story that is memorable though, or anything original to the comedy schtick. Perhaps that is the intention, to keep true to the Stooges way of doing things. The original Three Stooges only had to fill up a small amount of screen time on Television, and as a screen adaptation the antics of Moe, Curly, and Larry are not strong enough to fulfill the longer time obligation.
The Three Stooges falls in the category of not-bad but not-good. Giving it a proper rating overall is difficult because this entire film is going to be subjective based on the audience's tastes. Adult viewers have become accustomed to the Judd Apatow brand of comedy, where the language is vulgar, gender roles vacant, and the term slapstick nonexistent. The Three Stooges use their hands, their facial expressions, props, and subtlety mixed with over-the-top antics to get the laugh. All of their punch-happy skills are wrapped around the most generic of stories. The orphanage where they have reeked havoc for the past 35 years is going to be sold unless they come up with $830,000 dollars, exactly. Their quest to earn the money gets them caught up with a woman who wants her husband murdered, Lydia (Sophia Vergara), and even the cast of "Jersey Shore"--a highlight of the film for those who despise the show as everyone gets a taste of Moe's abuse. Save the orphanage, save their home, and possibly grow up a little in the process. But the Stooges do not grow up, and they never come to terms with the fact that they are indeed adults. The Farrelly Brothers keep Moe, Curly, and Larry in a bubble throughout the film; they may make their way into the real world for the first time but the real world does not make an impression on them. What you have in the end are the same three men the story began with, and while they may be funny, and reminiscent of the original Stooges, the plot is far to thin for an entire film--even if it is broken into three separate episodes.
There will never be a Three Stooges like the original Three Stooges. The Farrelly Brothers' The Three Stooges Moe, Larry, and Curly are not direct copies of the original, but a re-imagining of the same type of slapstick comedy trio. That said, the new version of The Three Stooges are overall a great trio of performers working perfectly in sync with one another, for two-thirds of the movie. The film is broken into three episodes, "More Orphan Than Not," "The Bananas Split," and "No Moe Mister Nice Guy." It is the first episode where The Three Stooges are not exactly in sync with one another, plaguing the first part of the film and leading a viewer amiss as to how the rest of the film will play out if the three main characters cannot convey the chemistry that is needed between them. You can't have a slapstick comedic threesome who do not react and play well with one another. It is unfortunate to lay blame, and as much as one would like to avoid it, it is Sean Hayes' Larry that does not mesh well with Moe and Curly. Larry is the most striking of the three appearance wise, with his crazy hairdo, and the man-in-the-middle so to speak of the three. Hayes does a great job creating the character of Larry, even if his timing with Moe and Curly is not always where it should be during the film.
It is with great relief that Moe, Curly, and Larry get better as the minutes pass, resulting in a trio that does seem to have been playing alongside each other for years. From a critic's perspective you really want to know the order the film was shot in, and whether the first act was indeed shot first so the actors had not warmed up to one another yet in their roles. Such a question will never find an answer, but everything works itself out and should there be a sequel to The Three Stooges you could bet the slight problems with chemistry will all be resolved--the actors have found their characters, and how to work with each other by film's end.
The Three Stooges is a family film made by directors who are not exactly known for family fare. I can't think of any mother or father who would show There's Something About Mary or Kingpin to their child. With The Three Stooges the Farrelly Brothers actually create a movie suitable for children and adults alike, without any swearing to be found or even much potty humor. The characters The Three Stooges were always family-friendly comedy, and they came on the scene during a time of greater content censorship and repression. The humor Moe, Curly, and Larry provide is slapstick to the 10th degree, as Moe beats up on Larry and Curly, Larry and Curly take pokes at Moe, and all three of them get into one body-abusing skit after another. The Three Stooges are not the brightest threesome; it is their dim wittedness that makes them funny, otherwise they would just be bullying each other. By today's standards they are not exactly being kind to one another, or altogether politically correct in their methods of evoking humorous scenarios but that does not stop them from being funny as they finger-poke, nyuk-nyuk and woo-woo-woo time and time again.
The slapstick antics of The Three Stooges is great fun to watch--this is coming directly from the audience's reaction while watching the film, especially the child [seated next to me] who could not contain his happiness or laughter. The slapstick comedy of The Three Stooges is an extinct species of comedy. Movies do not feature this type of comedy very often anymore and it is quite possible the average adult moviegoer will not find the film funny. What was once common is no longer and it takes some warming up to, and possibly more than a mere 90 minutes of Moe, Curly, and Larry. Children though are used to this type of comedy; they see it in their morning cartoons as adults once did with "The Road Runner" and "Ben & Jerry". The Farrelly Brothers have always made movies for adults, this time around they made a movie perfectly suited for children to enjoy, laugh along with, and fall-into-line completely with the slapstick comedy of Moe, Curly, and Larry. In order to make sure children know the stunts in the film were all fake there is a (very funny) PSA at the end of the film, featuring Antonio Sabato Jr. of all people--why? Because it is funny.
April 13, 2012