Well Hollywood, you did it again. You’ve made another movie no one wanted, tainting a property most people only know by name (and would probably only be able to name two of the four Stooges). Only time and this weekend’s box office numbers will tell as The Three Stooges opens today against Cabin in the Woods, Lockout, and The Hunger Games going strong for three weeks so far. These Stooges will need to being their +A game to compete.
This comedy has been in development hell for years, even going so far to have Sean Penn and Jim Carrey attached at one point. The Farrelly Brothers seemed the logical choice to direct such a film – slapstick and crude humor comes easily to the guys that brought the world There’s Something About Mary, and the Stooges have been famous for slapstick since 1934. The real question is: why now? Were people asking for a movie based on an American vaudeville comedy act? Do the kids of today even know or care who Moe, Larry and Curly are?
After seeing this movie I hope the answer is no, because this is an insult to what made the Stooges the comedy icons of yesteryear.
This empty assortment of rude humor and cheap slapstick is one of the worst movies of 2012. Slapstick done right can be great, but this attempted “homage” feels like a cheap knockoff. It was just a bunch of people beating the crap out of each other for an hour and half. (It could be argued that’s what the entire Stooges act was, but this lacked what subtlety and wit made it palatable for them.)
At least the cast was good. Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso: Moe, Larry and Curly are solid, doing pretty good imitations of the original trio. They each bring the speech, sounds and melodrama needed, but a whole movie of this gets old real quick. A short would have been better.
Jane Lynch, Sofia Vergara, Larry David and even Oscar wining Jennifer Hudson round out this cast, all doing a great job. But despite their skill, the movie flounders: it has no reason to exist, and it’s just way too stupid.
The Farrelly Brothers’ have brought the Stooges’ mid-20th century blue-collar slapstick style into 2012 without updating them at all, and that’s just the first problem. Updating The Three Stooges could be comedy blasphemy, but all this movie does is make the lead trio feel out of place in every frame. Each Stooge acts, and is treated, like some anachronistic throwback to a premodern era. Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), the leader of the group, still talks like he just fell out of Bill & Ted’s phone booth, but doesn’t seem to understand why people find this strange. Forced pop-culture references are not enough to make the Stooges feel like they belong. Other irrational touches include Larry David as the strict nun, Kate Upton as the hot nun, and Jennifer Hudson as the nun who got to sing a quarter of a song for no reason.
Admittedly, it would be unfair to say that I was a big fan of the original Three Stooges, but I have watched them from time to time. The old shorts still hold up as funny, but it’s the world around them that gives them context. This movie has none, and so the whole movie feels like 92 mins of slapstick low-brow humor. Combined with the over-the-top slapstick in past Farrely features like Me, Myself, & Irene and Dumb & Dumber, this movie goes straight over the edge. It’s so ludicrous the creators (or perhaps even the studio) found it necessary to add a P.S.A. at the end of the film warning kids to not try any of the stunts at home. (An inside joke, as Antonio Sabatto Jr. and Justin Lopez play Bobby and Peter Farrelly.)
Redeeming qualities are few and far between. Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, and Will Sasso do amazing impressions of Moe, Larry, and Curly, and clearly put in time studying the characters for an exact portrayal. Sadly, this just make them feel more out of place. Credit should should even be given to the young actors who played the child versions of the characters: Skyler Gisondo (Moe), Lance Chantiles-Wertz (Larry), abd Robert Capron (Curly). Sofia Vergara is beautiful on screen as her signature fiery Latina.
The film also cleverly pays homage to the original Stooges by breaking up each act as if it was a short, with title card and episode name. Unfortunately, this just reminds you that this shouldn’t have been any longer than one of those. The film is only an hour and a half, but Leland and I were ready to walk half an hour in, just after they used new born babies for a pee fight.