Aside from maybe Monty Python, few things can have be laughing to the point of hysterics faster than the Three Stooges. One of a number of vaudville-esque acts that made the early transition to the silver screen, the beloved slapstick trio of Larry, Moe and Curly, have left people in stitches for almost a full century, and have left an immeasurable impact on both cinema and comedy, and an appeal that has crossed countless millions and several generations.
Not surprisingly, even the nearly impact and appeal the trio had, there have been attempts to make a film based on them for a little over a quarter of a century. The most serious of these, and the attempt that finally got the movie green lit, was a Farrelly brothers directed film starring Benicio del Toro play Moe Howard, Sean Penn play Larry Fine, and Jim Carrey play Curly Howard. This film however, never saw the light of day as the MGM Bankruptcy left the film in limbo with a number of films, until last year when it was filmed in under three months, and has a trio of relative unknowns playing the Stooges (the most well known was Sean Hayes, of Will and Grace, playing Larry). If the brief film time and lessened star power didn’t worry me, the trailer, which featured a combination of gross-out and lewd humor, and even more worrisome, the appearance of the cast of the Jersey Shore, making it seem all but apparent that the film had descended into very nightmare adaptation many Stooge fans had feared the film would be. Still, for the years of laughs they’ve given me, I owe the Stooges a shot, for better or worse.
So is this a slapstick revival shot of nostalgia or am I schmuck for even giving it a chance? Get ready you knuckleheads, this is my review of The Three Stooges.
Our movie opens with our three dunces getting dumped at an orphanage as babies, and their antics quickly ensure they become a headache for the nuns who work their, and are blacklisted by prospective adoptive homes. Nonetheless, the three find a family in themselves, becoming as close as brothers can be, and make a living as handymen working at the orphanage, and are adored by the kids who live there. At least until they hear that the orphanage will be closed in a month unless it can come up with $830,000 to cover its debts. In their quest to save their childhood home, the trio finger-poke, nyuk-nyuk and woo-woo-woo their way to uncharted levels of knuckleheaded misadventure, involving everything from a murder conspiracy to reality television.
It may come as somewhat of a surprise that the story is brilliant, or at the very least, both heartwarming and funny. Divided into three acts, a nod to the set up of the old Three Stooges episodes, everything from the story to the dialogue would not have been out of place in one of the original Stooges features. Another brilliant thing about the story is its satire of the current state of comedy, in particular reality television, with shots taken at Jersey Shore and the Kardashians in particular. About the only issue with the entire film I had was a post credits scene were the directors felt they needed to tell the audience not to try this at home. That aside, the entire plot was a heartwarming joy ride.
Of course, just as enjoyable and heartwarming as the story was the performances by its cast. Now I’ll admit I was nervous that replacing del Toro, Penn and Carrey with a bunch of relative unknowns, but it works in regards to the fact you don’t see the actor, you see the character. The performances by Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso, as Moe, Larry and Curly respectively are uncanny and spot on in both appearance and mannerism, from Moe’s fist-like face to Curly’s verbal tics. Though I doubt they‘ll ever see an award for it, the trio deserves recognition for not only capturing the spirit of the Stooges, but for giving us the best slapstick since the Stooges themselves passed on.
Most of the rest of the cast is just as funny and flawless. Jane Lynch, as Mother Superior, is a hoot, as is Larry David as Mother Mengele, a nun who despises the Stooges, and fun in general. Sofia Vergara, as the movie’s scheming antagonist is her ever funny self, and Isaiah Mustafa, ie, the Old Spice Guy, as a TV executive is brilliant. About the only flaw to be found in the cast was the presence of the, ahem, people from Jersey Shore, but considering their presence wholly consists of getting beaten up by Moe, their tolerable, though it should say something that each of the movies child actors, in particular the ones playing the younger versions of the Stooges, have more on-screen talent than these orange-skinned bozos have ever shown.
I will say though the films treatment of nuns has gotten a lot of attention from Catholics, I feel its overblown. The way the nuns were shown, there is nothing really controversial, and actually could be considered pro-Catholic seeing as the nuns and their wards are portrayed sympathetically. About the only issue I had was the buzz kill nun played by Larry David was named Mengele, which I found in poor taste, especially since the Three Stooges themselves were Jewish.
Of course, the highlight of any Three Stooges movie is, as it should be, the humor. As a man bored with the stupidity of stoner comedies and the raunchiness of R-rated comedy, and bored with what seems to be the only two varieties of comedy on the market anymore, the good-hearted and relatively innocent slapstick and puns was a breath of fresh air that left me gasping for air. The number of jokes, puns and routines that left me in stitches were two many to count, and a number scenes, one in particular involving farm raised salmon, left me in tears. For once, a comedy had me laughing from start to finish, and a packed theater, which included a friend of mine who’d never even seen the Stooges, joined me in doing so.
It should go without saying by this point that I loved the Three Stooges movie. In everything from the story to the acting to the sense of humor, it provided both a slice of old-fashioned nostalgia, and a fresh bit of slap-stick and puns that it seems Hollywood has all but forgotten. Stooge fans will love it as the most faithful and loving humorous homage to the Stooges and their craft since the glory days of the trio, and newcomers will love it for being a refreshing and comedic change of pace. It shows that for the folks behind the movie this was a labor of love, and its so lighthearted, good natured and foolishly funny you’ll find it hard to resist to. So don’t be a schmuck, go see The Three Stooges at once!