Reviewed by GREG KING
Directors: Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Stars: Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Chris Diamantopoulos, Sofia Vergara, Jane Lynch, Larry David, Jennifer Hudson, Craig Berko, Stephen Collins, Kirby Heyborne, Brian Doyle-Murray, Skyler Gisondo, Lance Chantiles-Wertz, Robert Capron, Jake Peck, Mike “the Situation” Sorrentino, Snooki.
In the 30’s and 40s The Marx Brothers were a witty and sophisticated group of comics who made some classic comedies like A Night At The Opera, etc, that were full of crackling dialogue and repartee. On the other end of the comic spectrum were the Three Stooges, a trio who delighted in low brow slapstick humour, physical comedy and pratfalls. Also popular throughout the 30s and 40s, the Stooges made some 190 short films between 1934 and 1959, and a handful of features such as The Three Stooges Meet Hercules. They even briefly appeared in the ensemble comedy It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. They found new popularity on television in the 60s, although their brand of humour seems to be an acquired taste.
This feature length reworking of the Three Stooges remains reasonably faithful to the essence of what made them popular. This is a deliberately dumb comedy, but there are plenty of laugh-out loud moments throughout. The film is full of their trademark “n’yuck n’yuck” laughter, the eye gouging, and the violent physical humour featuring heads being hit with hammers.
Surprisingly the film is the brainchild of the Farrelly Brothers, Peter and Bobby, who hit comic heights with There’s Something About Mary before descending into offensive gross out humour with their latest projects. This is easily their best film in a long time! They direct the material with unusual restraint here, which will please fans of the Stooges who may have feared the worst when hearing that the Farrellys were going to be making a movie about them.
The Farrellys were apparently fans of the Stooges and their antics, and they are surprisingly reverent in their approach. They have faithfully managed to recreate their familiar routines here, and they even use the familiar Three Blind Mice theme music. As well as the trademark physical humour though the Farrellys throw in some clever puns and word play that work a treat.
And the casting is spot on too, with the three leads capturing their mannerisms and distinctive looks perfectly. Little known Chris Diamantopoulos, a versatile stage actor with a background in television, is perfect as Moe, right down to the distinctive bowl haircut and surly temperament. Will Sasso (who also hails from a background in television comedy with MADtv, etc) is excellent as Curly, the butt of most of the physical humour. And Sean Hayes, best known for tv’s Will & Grace, dons a latex hairpiece to capture Larry’s untidy, clown-like mop of hair. And there are some similarities between the Stooges and the likeable and innocent protagonists of the Farrellys first film Dumb And Dumber.
The Farrellys have set this homage to the Stooges in contemporary times, giving their brand of humour a delightfully politically incorrect flavour as they react to some modern cultural touchstones. And there is even an appearance from the toxic stars of reality show Jersey Shore when Moe ends up gatecrashing the show, and becomes a star in his own right. These scenes illustrate how yesterday’s television shows were far more entertaining and imaginative than the bland, unimaginative reality dross that dominates the small screen these days.
The film begins with the three stooges abandoned as youngsters at an orphanage run by Jane Lynch’s kindly Mother Superior. The boys and their antics terrorise the nuns, including a wasted Jennifer Hudson and the wonderfully named Sister Mary-Mengele (played by Larry David in drag). Twenty-five years later, the three are still at the orphanage working as inept handy men and still causing havoc. But the orphanage is due to close down unless it can find $830,000 within one month.
The three heroes set off to try and find the money even though they have never left the orphanage before and are fairly clueless about the outside world. They are hired by the scheming Lydia (Sofia Vergara), who offers the Stooges a chance at some easy money by killing her wealthy husband. But plans do not go smoothly. This plot device is irrelevant and exists merely as a hook on which to hang a series of slapstick routines, including some hilarious stuff set in a hospital.
The humour in here is delightfully old fashioned, and it is unclear whether it will appeal to modern audiences unaware of these characters. For fans of the original Three Stooges and their comic shtick this film will undoubtedly bring back fond memories. Even many who were not fans may well find themselves chuckling over this dumb but enjoyable comedy. I must admit I enjoyed it immensely!