Bottom Line: The Three Stooges is soitenly hilarious, and “Moe” than one would expect, but peppered with faults.
“Mind your p’s and q’s.” –Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe
“Don’t forget to dot the i’s.” –Will Sasso as Curly
“Soitenly!” –Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe
Directed by: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Starring: Chris Diamontopoulos, Jane Lynch, Sean Hayes, Will Sasso
Surprisingly decent comedy resurrects the classic black-and-white television skit of the same name. The lineup for The Three Stooges has varied quite widely, especially for an act that consists of merely three comedians. When the act started in 1925, the three were Moe, Shemp, and Larry; when it said goodbye in the early ’70s, the lineup consisted of Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe. While offering a bit of a twist, the film focuses on the most famous arrangement, which ran from 1932 through 1946: Moe, Larry, and Curly. The story takes it own route. It starts out by showing the Stooges in childhood, living at an orphanage run by nuns. 25 years later, they have reached grown-up idiothood, and that orphanage is shutting down due to economical issues. The Stooges learn that it will cost $830,000 to save the building, and they immediately get out, offering to work for anyone who will pay them that amount of money. Little do they know this will involve them in the predicaments of a murder plot and a starring role on reality TV.
As someone who loves TV’s The Three Stooges (though I have missed out on watching reruns on AMC for a few years), I enjoyed this Farrelly brothers adaptation quite a lot. Honestly, there isn’t much one can expect when you try to render a medium that begin around eighty years ago. Some unexpected things happened with this adaptation; these surprises happen to come across as both worthy of applause and utterly disappointing. THE THREE STOOGES is also separated into three “episodes” (which, in whole, stand alone, but play out chronologically), each of which starts and ends like one of the television skits: the title showing above the three faces at the beginning, a circle closing in on the middle of the frame at the end. The idea actually works out quite well; even though the Stooges skits were only 15 minutes each, and each segment was 27 minutes, it follows the ideal length of a TV episode. Also, this concept perfectly and evenly separates the film into the beginning, middle, and end. It was wonderful to see the old skit nodded at throughout the course of the film. Almost every possible scene is filled with the corny sound effects that made the old show funny. They sound a bit muddled, which makes the allusions even more obvious. But other parts of the sound, such as the music, contrasted these corny sound effects. The film’s score, composed by John Debney, was filled with modern Hollywood strings that made the mood of an uneven balance. The only time we hear the classically hokey Stooges theme is at the opening and closing of each segment (which is about the only reason to dislike the concept of having three total segments and not more). The modernization may be a whole other issue itself. Sometimes, when we see the placement of extremely modern products such as flat screen TVs, iPhones, Facebook, the Kardashians, and (most profoundly) Jersey Shore, it makes us wonder if the Farrellys could have invented their own slapstick trio and make a movie about them, but with the same exact script. Okay, I guess it does help that the Stooges seem to have no clue what any of those modern products are, and it enhances the already sky-high level of hilarity.
At this point in time, the slapstick genre is nearly dead. We had TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL last year, and that is The Three Stooges gone insanely violent, but that was the first feature film we’ve had in quite a while. THE THREE STOOGES resurrects the sub-genre quite well. Especially when comparing with most modern comedies, rarely is this film scatological (though there is one notably gross scene glorifying baby urine), and rarely is it actually as dumb as people are making it seem. Think of the what could be the Farrellys’ best-known work, DUMB & DUMBER. It’s similar to that, because the characters are dumb, but the film and script are overall quite clever. For example, there is a scene when all the Stooges meet up with the cast of Jersey Shore (finally that show gets a good mocking), on which Moe is being featured. One of the Stooges points to Snooki’s hat, which reads “Guinness”, and remarks, “Just because you’re wearin’ a hat that says ‘Genius’ doesn’t mean you are one!” You could look at this as a comedic gem injured a bit by its flaws, or an error-fest uplifted by the massive laughs it offers. Me, I prefer to view it as the former. Contrary to what you would expect, it’s not a film only Stooges fans would like.