Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Three Stooges

Directed by The Farrelly Brothers.

2012. Rated PG, 91 minutes.
Chris Diamantopoulos
Sean Hayes
Will Sasso
Larry David
Kate Upton
Stephen Collins
Kirby Heyborne
Brian Doyle Murphy

I had mixed emotions when I found out there was going to be an all-new Three Stooges movie. My hope was that it was going to be a biopic about their long career detailing the relationships between the at least half dozen men who were members at one time or another. I vaguely remember a TV movie to this effect some years ago. Eventually, I discovered it was simply going to be a full-length feature in the grand style of one of their famous shorts. I watched and laughed at plenty of the Stooges’ stuff as a youngster, occasionally as an adult, so I was game.

We meet our heroes shortly after birth when they’re unceremoniously dumped at an orphanage run by nuns. So outrageous is their behavior over the years, finding someone to adopt them is impossible. In fact, the boys are still there as adults. Out of the kindness of the nun’s hearts, I guess, they haven’t been sent packing despite wreaking havoc and being unable to complete even the simplest task. Don’t feel too bad. All of this is played for laughs, of course.

In case you’re somehow unfamiliar, introductions are in order. The Three Stooges are made up of Moe (Diamantopoulos), a nitwit but nonetheless their leader, and two dimmer bulbs, Larry (Hayes) and Curly (Sasso). The orphanage is going broke. Unless they can come up with $830,000 in thirty days, it’s doors will close forever. If you know anything about movies at all then you know the only thing left to do is for the boys to venture off to the big city to try and raise the cash themselves. That’s all you need to know about the plot other than MTV’s “The Jersey Shore” plays an improbably prominent role. To say the story is a weakness is a gross understatement.

If there is magic to be found in a Three Stooges movie, it lies not within the plot, but in the physical humor. Coming into this, I wondered how true this movie would be to its source material. In the old days, Moe would berate the other two for any mishaps, theirs or his, and a round of them slapping each other, hitting one another over the head with a variety of heavy blunt objects and poking one another in the eyes would ensue. The mishaps usually involved accidents that would be bone-breaking at the very least, in real life. Thankfully, the update remains faithful to that formula. It is exactly what most of us imagine a Stooge flick to be. Those of you who found the original trio hilarious, will likely find these guys to be much the same. They do a remarkable job imitating the real Moe, Larry and Curly. It’s refreshing that our beloved Stooges haven’t been sanitized to fit 21st century sensibilities.

On the other hand, the commitment to getting it right is the movie’s biggest problem. It’s a movie aimed at kids. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start moralizing. It’s just that the Stooges’ heyday, and even up through the 1970s when I was watching them, were less enlightened times. Three guys verbally and physically abusing one another or repeatedly having heinous accidents were a legitimate source of comedy. Now everything about the Stooges has been outlawed or incessantly railed against. There are PSAs about much of this stuff. I understand there is a good bit of Stooge influenced stuff going on in children’s programming these days, but it’s easier to digest as a cartoon. Today’s kids are less likely to laugh at a live-action version of the same things. Indeed, I laughed more than my own offspring. Times are a changin’.

MY SCORE: 6/10

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