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Three Stooges, The (2012)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Look As I Grouse!"
2 stars

For more than a decade, Bobby and Peter Farrelly--the architects of slob comedies running the gamut from a classic like the uproarious "Kingpin" to smash hits like "Dumb and Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary" to a bunch of crap of which we shall simply skip over here in the interest of politeness and human decency--have attempted to use their clout to revive the classic comedy trio the Three Stooges for a brand-new feature film in which contemporary actors (at one point rumored to be Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn and Jim Carrey) stepping into the roles of lovable dopes Moe, Larry and Curly. (Penn was presumably hired to play Larry based on the singular hairdo that he sported throughout "Carlito's Way.") Although few doubted the sincerity of the Farrellys' affection for both the Stooges and knockabout slapstick comedy in general, the occasional reports that the project was still alive and kicking filled most fans of the Stooges and the nearly 200 shorts they made over a 20+year career with feelings ranging from confusion to outright trepidation. After all, the whole notion of hiring contemporary actors to try to revive an act that succeeded as much as a result of the original performers and the comedic timing and rapport that they developed through years on the stage and in front of the movie cameras just seemed weird at best and potentially disastrous at worst, as anyone who saw the 1994 revival of "The Little Rascals" or that ersatz Laurel & Hardy feature featuring Bronson Pinchot as Laurel and someone else as Hardy, a creation so bizarre and unsettling to behold that when I stumbled upon it on cable one bleak morning completely unawares as to its existence, I thought I was genuinely cracking up for good.

An even more pressing problem for them was the inescapable fact that, with the exception of a few supporting turns during the act's early years and a few forgettable films towards the end of the road, the Stooges never really made much of an effort to break through into features, perhaps as a tacit acknowledgement that what served as their comedic bread and butter--a dizzying array of violent sight gags usually involving them smacking themselves or each other around--was best appreciated in small doses and that any attempt to stretch such nonsense beyond the parameters of a typical short subject (not counting the occasional Stooge-a-Thon, of course) ran the serious risk of getting rather tiresome very quickly. Nevertheless, after years of rumors and false starts, the Farrellys finally got their dream project off the ground and the result is "The Three Stooges," a cheerfully simplistic slab of relentless slapstick and unadulterated nonsense that turns out to be a mixed bag of goods that isn't especially funny for the most part but which is still spiked with enough moments of genuine comedic inspiration to almost make one forget all the weak bits, of which there are plenty.

In an attempt to combat the perception that the brand of humor that the Stooges represent cannot be stretched out into a feature-length film, the Farrellys have chosen to present the film in the for of three separate half-hour shorts that tell a complete and coherent story (more or less) when put together. The first sees Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), Larry (Sean Hayes) and Curly (Will Sasso) wreaking inadvertent havoc at the orphanage where they have been raised since infancy under the guidance of an ever-patient Mother Superior (Jane Lynch) and a gaggle of nuns portrayed by performers ranging from Jennifer Hudson (who, of course, has the voice of an angel), Kate Upton (who, of course, stands as proof positive that there must be a God) and Larry David (who, of course, demonstrates that the Lord works in very mysterious ways). While they are knocking each other around with chainsaws, sledgehammers and the like, word comes from the monsignor that unless the orphanage can come up with $800,000 in thirty days, the place will be closed and the kids--even the adorable and/or sickly ones--will be shipped off to grim foster homes.

In the second section, the guys leave the orphanage for the first time and set off for the big city in order to raise the money. Before too long, they become embroiled in a plot concocted by sexpot Lydia (Sofia Vergara) to kill her husband so that she can run off with his millions and her lover (Craig Bierko), a plan that quickly goes awry and finds the guys trying to kill the now-hospitalized lover on the assumption that he is the husband. By the end of this segment, a fight splits the guys up and as the final segment begins, Larry & Curly are still trying to raise the money while Moe has become famous as the latest cast member of "Jersey Shore." Of course, such a schism cannot abide and once Larry and Curly discover the true identity of the endangered husband, they reunite with Moe and try to save the day by trying to think, even though nothing happens.

This may sound like altogether too much plot for any film involving the misadventures of the Three Stooges but have no fear, it is executed in such a simple fashion that even the stoogiest viewers will have little trouble following along with it. Whether they will want to or not is, of course, another manner entirely. You would think that after having been wrestling with the project for than a decade that the Farrellys and co-writer Mike Cerrone might have been able to come up with a narrative that didn't consist of roughly 70% old bits and pieces cribbed directly from routines seen in the original Stooges shorts and the remaining 30% ported over from "The Blues Brothers." It isn't that I object to the material--I hold both the Stooges and "The Blues Brothers" near and dear to my heart and will fight anyone who feels differently about them--but watching these ersatz Stooges going through their paces in attempting to recreate the old routines right down to the tiniest details is a disconcerting experience at best and slightly depressing at worst. Diamantopoulos, Hayes and Sasso all do good imitations of the real Moe, Larry and Curly but since they are just imitations and nothing more, their appeal begins to erode after a while and they eventually comes across like a trio of junior-high-aged kids who simply don't know when to quit.

Of course, things aren't much better when the screenplay does make tentative stabs at going off the reservation. I am perfectly willing to accept the notion of the guys trying to save a bunch of sickly orphans and such--such sentimentality often cropped up in the original films as well--but do we really require a backstory for Moe underlying his friendship with the others? Furthermore, in a movie in which the Three Stooges are front and center, couldn't someone have come up with a finale that actually remembers to utilize them instead of wasting time trying to publicly rehabilitate the "Jersey Shore" cretins? In fact, towards the end of the film, there are so many twists, turns, double-crosses and peripheral characters involved that the Stooges feel like bystanders in their own film and while their cleavage may not be as exciting to witness as Vergara's, I don't think I am crazy in thinking that they could have used a little more screen time.

On the other hand, there are some bits and pieces here that are really, really funny to behold. There is the part where Curly encounters an iPhone. There is the part where we witness the trio's ill-fated attempt to get into the business of selling farm-raised salmon. There is the part where Larry lets loose with an exceptionally egregious groaner of a joke and an enraged Moe replies "What did I tell you about making puns?" There is the end credits bit where an ersatz Peter & Bobby Farrelly appear on the screen to warn kids about imitating any of what they have just seen. There is the moment when we learn just how it is possible that an orphanage that appears to have all of the comforts of Wisconsin could possibly be $800,000 in debt--an instance of applied logic that most Stoogephiles should find amusing. That said, the biggest laugh on display may be one of its most inadvertent--during one putatively serious moment when the Stooges are wracked with despair and feelings of failure, the soundtrack suddenly and sincerely bursts forward with, of all things, Bob Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues." (If there is a god, then the eventual Blu-Ray will included footage of Dylan meeting with his advisers and getting his reaction to the offer to license the tune for this of all films.)

In the end, "The Three Stooges" is neither as good as some might have secretly hoped it might be nor as excruciatingly awful as most may have feared that it would be. For those poor, benighted souls whose inner misery and turmoil has caused them to never find much humor in the original Three Stooges in the first places, there is certainly nothing on display here that would cause them to reconsider such a deeply felt belief. For those who have chosen to base their lives upon the teachings of Moe, Larry and Curly (not to mention the New Testament stylings of Shemp, Joe Besser and Curly-Joe DeRita), it depends on whether you find the quantity of the laughs to be a more important factor than the quality. If that is the case, you may want to reconsider seeing this one because while it isn't the worst Farrelly joint by far, the real laughs are few and far between. On the other hand, if the opposite is true, you might want to consider checking it out (either in theaters or on the tube, where it will probably appear in the regular Comedy Central rotation until hell freezes over or Hollywood decides to revive the persona of Harry Langdon in the form of Chris Evans, whichever comes first) because while it may not have that many big laughs to show for itself, the ones that it does have are utterly hysterical. In other words, "The Three Stooges" is better than a poke in the eye--just not that much better.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23106&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/12/12 17:55:23
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User Comments

8/26/12 mr.mike The stars are spot-on as the boys. Worth a rental 3 stars
6/11/12 The Big D Genuine stooge-style laughs, and Sofia Vergara rocks!! 5 stars
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  13-Apr-2012 (PG)
  DVD: 17-Jul-2012


  DVD: 17-Jul-2012

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