The Three Stooges (2012)

The Three Stooges is a classic example of an Either/Or Movie.  Either you thoroughly enjoy watching grown men repeatedly beat each other senseless for no good reason at all or you don’t.  Either you love watching big stars slum it in a brain-dead comedy or you hate it.  Either you find these cruel yet strangely sentimental dimwits hilariously appealing or completely obnoxious and scary.  There is no middle ground.

Watching this totally unnecessary revival of the long controversial comedy troupe did not bring back cheerful memories of my childhood (I used to like imitating Curly).  Instead, it made me question what I ever saw in these moronic characters in the first place.

For this needless update we go back to the beginning.  Larry (the one with the unruly red hair), Curly (the bald human sound effect) and Moe (the short-haired psychopath) are rejected newborn babies literally thrown at the doorstep of the Sisters Of Mercy Orphanage where they are welcomed with open arms.  With one notable exception, the nuns can’t wait to take care of them.

Ten years later, no one wants anything to do with them.  In fact, when a well-to-do couple arrives to decide on which child they’d like to adopt, the orphanage only offers The Stooges.  They put the more suitable prospects in hiding.  Unfortunately, that plan hits a snag.  The temporarily chosen Moe is permanently sent back in favour of one of those hidden kids (an initially rejected boy literally walks into the room just as the adoption process is taking place) when the salad-bowl haircutted malcontent asked for Larry and Curly to be part of his new family which apparently is a dealbreaker.  Talk about fucking with a kid’s already warped mind.

By the time our heroes hit 35, incrediously they are still at the orphanage.  (Doesn’t anyone here realize they are free to move out on their own at any time now?)  Mad TV fans will recognize Canadian Will Sasso as the “adult” Curly while Will & Grace supporters will raise their eyebrows upon seeing Sean Hayes as the full-grown Larry.  TV actor Chris Diamantopoulos takes over as Moe at this point in the film.

They all play their roles exactly like the original trio, right down to the voices and violent mannerisms that made the troupe famous and successful in the first place.  The costume and make-up departments do the rest by reviving their famous look.  However, none of this attention to detail leads to any of them making me laugh a single time.  (For the record, I laughed twice:  a quick zing from another character at the expense of the Kardashians which is always appreciated and a shot of a young nun on lifeguard duty in a ridiculously risque swimsuit.)

After all the mayhem The Stooges have caused over the years (both intentional and accidental), the orphanage is now on the verge of bankruptcy.  Unless $830,000 in insurance claims is paid within a month, the Sisters Of Mercy will shut down for good.  With just a handout of 72 bucks in their pocket (no wonder they end up sleeping in a dumpster), The Stooges set off for the city and unwittingly get sucked into a murder scheme involving a sexy adulterous wife (the cleavtastic Sofia Vergara from Modern Family) and her mustachioed boy toy (Craig Bierko who aptly delivers the Kardashian quip).

This modern reincarnation of The Three Stooges was co-written and directed by The Farrelly Brothers whose own work (most notably the so-so Dumb & Dumber) has very clearly been influenced by Moe & company.  Sadly, they’re not at all interested in reinvention here or even improving the supremely dumb formula.  They’d rather just recycle the same old tired (and painful) gags over and over again in a forgettable story to numbing effect.

In a lot of ways, despite some current pop-culture references, this movie purely exists to appease middle-aged comedians who have a bizarre nostalgia for this now outdated style of comedy.  (It feels very much like something out of the 40s.)  Longtime fan Larry David, who co-created Seinfeld and solely established Curb Your Enthusiasm, has a rather prominent supporting role as the obligatorily strict nun who’s always in a foul mood.  He’s not given anything funny to do unless you consider a scowling man in drag hissing at a barking Curly to be a stroke of genius.  (I don’t.)

Furthermore, the lack of basic logic is really astounding.  Why do the nuns continually put up with The Stooges’ awful behaviour for so long without doing anything constructive about it?  Many years after he claimed he was quitting why is David still working at the orphanage?  Despite being in custody for practically their entire lives why are the trio of terror so incredibly stupid?  Didn’t they get a formal education?  How in the hell was that confusing murder plot supposed to work when it was doomed from the start?  Couldn’t the Catholic Church just write a check for the outstanding insurance bill?

And what about Moe absurdly joining the cast of Jersey Shore?  Only in Bizarro World would he ever be able to get the better of tough cookies like chiselled Ronnie (who once knocked out a guy on a real episode with one punch) and fearless JWow (who slugged the permanently douchey Situation on another).  But there he is, owning every member of the Seaside Heights’ household at every possible moment like an untouchable supervillain.  Even Angelina couldn’t get away with these antics.

Which brings me to the violence.  Despite its cartoonish intentions the result is so off-putting especially when it involves the women of Jersey Shore.  The constant barrage of tongue gripping, eye poking, nose hair pulling, punching and kicking, not to mention the use of all those heavy objects, is relentlessly fatiguing and disturbing.  (This kind of abuse just isn’t funny in this context.)  Yes, no actual harm is done to any of the cast (as noted by the fake, model versions of the Farrelly Brothers before the closing credits) but, that being said, in a live-action setting can any genuine hard-earned laughs really come from a guy getting chainsawed in the forehead and another guy singing soprano when a lobster latches on to his bits?  (Don’t get me started on the hospital nursery scene.)

A strange whiplash effect occurs frequently when the movie dramatically shifts from tedious slapstick to overwrought melodrama.  The Stooges, you see, love the children of the orphanage (they’re the only ones immune from their reckless aggression), hence their guilt-ridden mission to raise the insurance money in the first place.  There’s a subplot involving a sick girl named Murph, her puppy dog-eyed brother Peezer and their separated sibling Weezer.  She’s supposed to be dying of something serious which is never actually explained properly.  Nevertheless, the manipulation at work here is so strong you end up not caring about this ultimately phony dilemma.

It’s hard to believe a low-brow project like this can still attract the interests of major stars like Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson, Larry David and Sofia Vergara.  Surely they realize by now that no amount of effort on their part could have ever overcome the lack of actual wit in this soul-crushing screenplay.  Lynch, who plays Mother Superior, might be the only cast member who somehow, someway, maintains her dignity from start to finish. 

I can’t say the same for the movie itself.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, March 9, 2013
8:34 p.m.

Published in: on March 9, 2013 at 8:34 pm  Comments (2)  

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