Movie Review: The Three Stooges
By Matthew Huntley
April 19, 2012
At the end of The Three Stooges, two buff-looking guys (Antonio Sabato Jr. and Justin Lopez) appear on-screen and inform the audience all the props used in the movie were made of rubber and nobody actually got hurt when they were hit over the head with a hammer or poked in the eyes with fingers. It’s not clear whether this scene was supposed to be comedic or actually serve as a public service announcement to all the kids watching, letting them know the movie is comprised of choreographed stunts and that real violence is no laughing matter.
Let’s suppose it is a PSA. Do the filmmakers and/or studio really not think today’s kids know what they’re watching is fake? Kids still watch cartoons, don’t they? They’re savvy enough to know that if an anvil really fell on some guy’s head or a stick of dynamite blew up in his face he’d actually die, right?
Or has it really come to this, where a movie has to have a liability scene at the end? Perhaps an audio commentary by the movie’s directors, Bobby and Peter Farrelly, will shed some light on how we’re supposed to interpret this message.
But I digress. About the movie…it is, of course, a modern Three Stooges adventure, or rather, a classic Three Stooges adventure set in modern times. The accident-prone trio and their wacky antics haven’t changed a bit since their early vaudeville act or multitude of short films that debuted between the 1920s and 60s. If you’re at all familiar with their work (who isn’t?), then there’s no reason to expect anything different here: slapstick, slapstick and more slapstick. Moe, Larry and Curly practically laid the groundwork for it and have subsequently become an institution of American pop culture, not only carving out their own brand of comedy but also giving rise to those trademark hair styles - Moe with his straight bowl cut; Curly with his shaved head; and Larry with a shock of unruly, curly hair, where no two strands have a unified sense of direction (for this reason, it always puzzled me why Larry wasn’t called Curly, but maybe that’s meant to be ironic).
It was refreshing to see that even in the 21st century, these gullible blockheads still don’t have a clue and are forever inclined to misinterpreting signs and misspelling everyday words, which causes them (and others) serious injury. Most of the time they’re hurting each other via slaps to the face, fingers to the mouth, fists to the head, and sucker punches to the gut, all of which are punctuated with “dings” and “dongs” on the soundtrack. They’re idiots, yes, but they’re the loveable kind and they have big hearts. And despite them being numbskulls, we like them, which is one of the keys to a movie like this working. If we despised these guys, I suspect the movie would be near unbearable.
Fortunately the Farrellys and the actors play the Three Stooges shtick straight. Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), Larry (Sean Hayes) and Curley (Will Sasso) are the same goofballs they were in their earlier pictures, only now they happen to exist in 2012. They haven’t been transported through time; they’re not suddenly self-aware; and they’re not at the mercy of a tired fish-out-of-water plot. It seems the idea wasn’t to update the Stooges’ comic routine, but rather continue it in an updated time. This same movie could have been made 60 years ago, and because the filmmakers didn’t approach the timeless material as if it was broken and needed fixing, it works just the same. So if you’re a fan of the Stooges, there’s no reason to think you won’t laugh (or at least smile) during this movie.
Is there a plot to speak of? Not really, but the string holding the three acts together revolves around the Stooges trying to raise $830,000 to save the orphanage they grew up in (Larry David, Jane Lynch and Jennifer Hudson play some of the nuns). They leave the country and head for the city, where they’re willing to perform any type of “wirk.” The curvaceous Lydia (Sofía Vergara) exploits their naiveté and schemes to have them murder her husband so she can collect his fortune and run off with her moronic, extra-marital lover (Craig Bierko). Naturally, this leads the Stooges through a series of misadventures, including dressing up in drag; falling off rooftops; sleeping in dumpsters; swimming with polar bears; and even appearing on “The Jersey Shore,” the latter of which could have been disastrous but is actually quite amusing.
In fact, most of the movie is amusing (save for a scene involving urinating babies). I don’t know why, but slapstick is inherently funny. We seem to take pleasure in seeing other people get hurt (probably because we’re smart enough to know it’s fake). The screenplay also contains a few inspired moments, as when Larry and Curly visit a law firm and the names of the lawyers reflect their specialization.
Because the underlying material is considered light, trivial and stupid, most critics aren’t likely to praise the actors for their performances. For some reason, it’s common to think what they’re doing isn’t hard, when in fact comedy is probably more difficult than drama. But I give Diamantopoulos, Hayes and Sasso a lot of credit, because instead of merely imitating the earlier inflections of the Stooges, they go above and beyond to embody the characters and make them their own. It would have been easy to simply look the parts, but these guys fully embrace them.
The Three Stooges is proof you should never judge a movie by its trailer. If we did, then nobody in their right mind would ever see this (it had one of the worst trailers in recent memory). Oh, there are better movies out there to choose from, but if you’re in the mood for laughs or high-energy silliness, “Stooges” gets the job done splendidly.