Stooges!

Three Stooges 2013

20th Century Fox

The Farrelly Brothers finally bring out their long-awaited Three Stooges movie. And the Farrellies’ Stooges are stuck in 1940 living in the 21st century. So how do they pull this off? They make a series of four shorts that comprise what essentially is a remake (reimagining?) of The Blues Brothers.

The Stooges are introduced as infants dumped off at an orphanage and discovered by Sister Mary Mengele (played sadistically by Larry David.) The first episode shows the boys growing up where they are little hellions doing what you expect Stooges to do – fighting and causing general damage.

The rest of the movie concerns Larry, Curly, and Moe’s efforts to save the orphanage from closure. They look like fugitives from the classic Stooges shorts plunked down into the present day. They get mixed up with a black widow out to murder her husband. The boys, looking for cash to save the orphanage, take the job. This, of course, leads to all sorts of predictable mayhem. The boys split up and somehow, Moe becomes the newest cast member of Jersey Shore. He eye-pokes, hair pulls, and slaps his way to stardom, even putting The Situation’s head in a microwave. (Sadly – spoiler alert – it’s not fatal.)

Is this movie worth a first-run ticket? That depends. I saw the movie with a theater full of families, and the little kids were giggling their way through the entire film. For me, except for the slow-paced first “episode,” I felt like I was watching the original shorts when I was a kid, waiting for the Saturday horror films.

And that’s all this exercise really is. Making kids laugh and bringing back the classic Stooge characters for new generations. The Stooges themselves are very well done. Will Sasso (Madtv, S*** My Dad Says) was an obvious choice for Curly, and he gets the voice down pat. Sean Hayes, however, really delivers with the toughest part. How do you imitate Larry? Larry Fine spent the Stooges’ career primarily reacting to Moe, Curly, Schemp, Joe, or Curly Joe. Hayes gets the voice down, but gives Fine’s original character a bit of warmth and sympathy to make up for basically not being Larry Fine.

It’s Chris Diamantopoulos, however, who cements the reboot of the original three characters. (Yes, I know Schemp was the original third Stooge, but he left before they moved into film.) He nails the voice and the look of Moe Howard. Naturally, Moe, like Curly and his successors, have a lot of catch-phrases, moves, and tics to make them standout (which makes Hayes’ performance all the more impressive.) But you have to do those catch-phrases, moves, and tics properly. The only post-Stooge comedian I’ve seen pull it off was John Candy in an SCTV skit playing Curly as an actor in a Roman Empire epic.

But is this great comedy? It’s okay. It’s fun. The kids love it, and the Farrelly Brothers clearly captured the heart of the Stooges. Plus Moe joining Jersey Shore and terrorizing everyone in the house is a great bit of cultural revenge on reality television. (Despite being the victims, the Shore crew seem to be having fun with it.)

But the rest of the cast… I like Jane Lynch, but her role as Mother Superior did not exploit Lynch’s dry sense of humor. However, Larry David as irate Mother Mary Mengele hearkens back to the typical Stooge antagonists of the past. But I was most disappointed in Sister Rosemary, played by Jennifer Hudson. Oh, she was a capable enough character, and we get to hear that fantastic voice. But Jen’s got a new bod, and they kept it buried under that nun’s habit the entire two hours. Yes. I know. I’m a bad, bad man for saying that, but Jennifer Hudson is, besides a gifted singer and decent actress, a babe. Still, it’s cool to see her in this, and great to hear her sing. Always great to hear her sing.

In the end, you need to flip a coin to decide if you want to see this in first run or wait for the on-demand showing. I don’t think you’d regret seeing it in the theater if you’re a Stooges fan or have a little kids. Otherwise, save the money. It’ll be just as funny in your living room.

Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!

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2 thoughts on “Stooges!

  1. I’ll wait a month for this to get on HBO ;). Btw. Shemp left when they were part of Ted Healy’s stooges–and I once saw a collection of these short films. All the stooges would do is go on stage so Ted Healy could beat the hell out of them. I don’t blame Shemp for quitting that!

    • Interesting tidbit from the movie. When the boys are orphans early on, Moe is almost adopted, but when he refuses to be separate from Larry and Curly, the couple adopts another boy named Ted. Unlike the real Ted, who stayed friends with Moe Howard after leaving the act, this Ted survives. (Ted Healy was killed in a bar brawl. Allegedly, one of the brawlers was future James Bond producer Albert Brocolli.) I thought that was a neat way to fit one of the other Stooges in (though Healy wasn’t a Stooge.) Maybe the other three will show up in a sequel.

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