The Three Stooges
Starring Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Haynes & Will Sasso
Directed by Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly • PG, 92min.
With roots as a vaudeville act in the 1920s, the holy trinity of knuckleheaded nyuk-nyuk-nyuks became comedy icons decades later as television began syndicating their short films, nursing a new generation of young viewers on their manic mix of eye-poking, hair-pulling, face-slapping, noggin-busting shtick.
This movie, a jubilantly juvenile celebration of their slapstick legacy of the 1930s and ’40s, casts fresh actors in the traditional roles of Moe, Larry and Curly, the “classic” Stooges lineup, but transplants them into the setting of a colorful modern world. As such, it’s a hybrid of the act’s vintage “Stooge-isms” grafted onto jokes about iPhones, Twitter and reality TV.
As the new Stooges, Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso do an outstanding---amazing, even---job of “becoming” Moe, Larry and Curly, nailing their facial expressions, physical tics and vocal inflections, and mastering the much more-complex-than-it-looks balance required for each leg of the act’s comedy tripod.
The movie’s directors, brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly, made their bones in Hollywood with the gross-out gags and bottom-feeding humor of “Something About Mary” and “Dumb And Dumber.” They’re obviously big Stooges fans, and their high regard is evident in the movie’s structure as three “short” connected mini-stories, each with its own opening title card and signature Stooges theme music.
The Farrellys, true to form, throw in a few new lowbrow bits---including a “shootout” using peeing babies, a scene than features the result of Curly’s flatulence meeting an open flame, and Larry’s encounter with a lobster that Moe shoves down his pants---that are actually, in context, more comical than crude, even if they lower the bar of taste a bit beneath what the Stooges would have done 75 years ago.
Recognizable faces include “Modern Family” actress Sofia Vergara, Larry David (as a nun!), Jennifer Hudson, Jane Lynch from “Glee,” supermodel Kate Upton, Brian Doyle-Murray, basketball star Dwight Howard, and the entire cast of “Jersey Shore.”
The Stooges have always been an acquired taste, and your interest in this movie will likely align with just where on the spectrum between comedic geniuses and infantile buffoons you tend to place them. But in the Farrelly’s Stooge-iverse, there’s no doubt that Moe, Larry and Curly are kings.
The brothers can’t resist throwing in a couple of bonus gags when the movie’s over. At the very end, the Farrellys stroll onscreen to caution younger viewers not to try any of the injurious stunts they’ve just seen---like when Moe bonks Larry on the head with a hammer (it’s a rubber prop, it’s pointed out). But the Farrellys aren’t really the Farrellys; they’re a couple of actors portraying the Farrellys. Even the “serious” public-service announcement, it turns out, is a joke.
And stay as the credits roll to catch the totally out-of-left-field music video of the new-age Stooges hamming it up to their version of Stevie Wonder’s “It’s a Shame.” Why that song, and what’s the connection?
I can’t think of one...other than, perhaps, it’d be a shame if any fan of the real Stooges missed this “reel” Stooges tribute, a pet project from a couple of filmmakers who are obviously passionate fans, and three actors who do an almost uncanny job of channeling Moe, Larry and Curly’s classic comic vibes.