In a lifetime of following popular culture, I have never encountered a neutral opinion on The Three Stooges. People either love the anarchic silliness of Larry, Curly, and Moe, or they find the whole concept completely asinine. (The former group also tend to giggle at the word “asinine”, but I digress.)
The Farrelly Brothers’ new tribute to the classic Stooge shorts of the 1930s will do nothing to change these opinions, but it’s wonderful to have a film that actually revives the argument. The Three Stooges is as good a remake as could be expected.
The casting is remarkable – Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulos are dead ringers for Larry Fine, Curly Howard and his brother Moe, with the assistance of hairstyling and a little facial contortion. Even better, they nail the mannerisms, speech patterns, and behaviours that are essential to playing the Stooges. A movie like this could not get by without an accurate recreation of the characters, and this is a grand success. In the midst of one of their wildly choreographed slap-fights, with sound effects boinging and Curly woo-wooing, you’d think you were watching a colourized original.
Even better, though, is the plotting. The script by the Farrellys and Mike Cerrone lays out a near-timeless story that could fit alongside any of the original shorts, as the three knuckleheads become patsies in a murder plot while trying to raise money to save the orphanage where they grew up. The temptation here might have been to update the story for the 21st Century, forcing the Stooges into a more modern setting, but then the spirit would be lost. In fact, the Farrellys themselves prove the point – a lone “updated” subplot involving Moe joining the cast of Jersey Shore falls completely flat, and it’s not because of the poor acting skills of the reality TV stars.
Kids will love this movie, since they’re hard-wired for silliness, though some of the material might not be appropriate for the very young. And in a nod to parents concerned about the comedic violence, a quick warning from “Peter and Bobby Farrelly” just before the credit roll shows kids how all of it is faked, and warns them not to try the eye-poking and face slapping at home. Cinematically, it slams the film into a brick wall, but it still seems appropriate in the age of helicopter parenting.
The fantastic leads are supported by a top-notch cast of comedic players, including Craig Bierko and Modern Family‘s Sofía Vergara as the murder plotters, Jane Lynch as the orphanage’s Mother Superior, and Larry David in drag as the cranky Sister Mary-Mengele.
It’s not consistently funny all the way through, but there’s more than enough solid stuff here, and when it’s humming along, The Three Stooges is an ingenious throwback to a simpler time in movie comedy that will bring a smile to your face. Unless you’re one of those people who just doesn’t get it, in which case there’s no arguing with you. G’wan, ya numbskull! Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.
Tags: movie review