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David Poland

By David Poland

Mini-Review: The Three Stooges

Simply put, I kinda love it.

The elegant stupidity of The Three Stooges has been effectively resurrected by The Farrellys. After many attempts to put together a movie star version of a Stooges film, they landed on three actors who can blend into the spirit of what they are doing. (Not that I still wouldn’t pay double to watch Sean Penn, Benicio del Toro, and Jim Carrey slap each other around.)

It is the joy of Tom chasing Jerry, Elmer and Daffy trying to keep up with Bugs, Wile E. Coyote vs Road Runner. It is as primal as watching someone slip and fall. No matter how much we sympathize, unexpected bursts of intensity are funny.

And The Three Stooges has a very specific kind of feel. Curly always brought the sweet childish innocence. Larry always knew what was coming, but endured it, somehow knowing the pain would soon end. And Moe led the way as blindly as any general.

One of the deviations from what you might expect in a Stooges movie is that The Farrellys get into the emotion subtext of this enduring relationship. They do it in a gentle, slightly melodramatic way that you might expect from a silent film. But the questions are asked. Why is Moe the leader? What keeps the trio together? What is the depth of the aspiration of the trio… especially as most of the old shorts were centered around jobs into which they fell?

But mostly, it’s about how funny it is when people are hit by surprise. Hit with a hand, poked in the eyes, crushed between two things, crushed by a large object, and a Farrelly favorite… having clumps of your hair pulled out from any hairy part of the male body.

Like My Week With Marilyn or Walk The Line, the new Stooges mimic the old Stooges without being pure imitation. They take a lot of the details, but they also are giving real performances in there. Will Sasso, as our new Curly, not only adds his own physicality (he looks to be about 20% larger than Curly was), but his clothing becomes a character in the film, his suit jackets almost acting. Sean Hayes channels the Larry Fine voice to perfection… really, close your eyes and try not to think it’s the real thing. But he is active in scenes while he is not the center of the gag much more so than I recall Mr. Fine being. And Chris Diamantopoulos, who you will have a hard time recognizing from “Up All Night” or the Charles Schwab commercials, brings a range to Moe, keeping his temper in a range that carries a touch more of the awareness of his role as the leader than the original Moe ever did.

Of course, the scene stealer here isn’t Jennifer Hudson as a nun or the SI Swimsuit covergirl in a nun-kini, but Larry David as Sister Mary Mengele. It’s genius casting. It’s right in David’s narrow range of acting craft, but it also allows him to show the real rage that he never allows himself in other contexts. It’s as if Larry’s version of Larry on Curb Your Enthusiasm suddenly doesn’t care whether he is accepted socially…. in women’s clothes… a nun’s habit to be exact. It’s worth noting that Larry David played a version of Larry Fine on Fridays, the SNL knockoff he starred in eons ago…

Even the way The Farrelly’s negotiate the inclusion of Jersey Shore… it’s pretty perfect, both in the integration of those performers and Moe’s relationship with the show and the idea of success and celebrity.

It’s easy to oversell this movie. It still looks like a Farrelly movie. And it’s still The Three Stooges. But it’s an awful lot of stupid fun. And it’s great for the family… unless you a very sensitive to eye-poking. A true PG, not a PG-13. And certainly one of the best 5 movies of the 35 released widely this year to date.

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21 Responses to “Mini-Review: The Three Stooges”

  1. MarkVH says:

    Nice review, and it’s a shame the rest of the critics aren’t being as kind to this (currently 42% on Rotten Tomatoes). Reminds me of the reaction to Looney Tunes: Back in Action – critics mostly thrashed it, but I got the sense that Dante et al really loved and respected the material and wanted to do right by it. I remember Brendan Fraser going on Letterman and overflowing with boyish enthusiasm for Freleng, Jones, Tashlin, and all the other Termite Terrace guys, and how bummed I was when the reaction to the film was so poor.

  2. I can’t speak for The Three Stooeges, but I friggin loved Looney Tunes: Back In Action. It was absolutely a Looney Tunes movie in spirit and it was actually funny. I don’t get why critics took a piss on it other than some weird aversion to anything ‘new’. But then, I enjoyed Space Jam for what it was (Michael Jordan was perfectly fine), so I’m a sucker for the Merry Melodies franchise. Yeah, Back in Action is smart and funny and is about as good as a live-action/animated Looney Tunes movie should be.

  3. SamLowry says:

    I read “Up All Night” and immediately thought of Rhonda Shear–does that mean I’m getting old?

  4. Yancy Skancy says:

    Diamantopoulos was great as Robin Williams in that TV movie a few years back; was glad they went with him for this over a bigger name.

  5. Joe Leydon says:

    About 30 years ago, I saw Jay Leno doing a stand-up routine in which he riffed on The Three Stooges. “You know the biggest differenece between men and women? It’s not physical. It’s not psychological It’s this: Men think The Three Stooges are funny — and women don’t. Really. You can get a bunch of guys who are MIT doctorates: When Moe hits Larry with the frying pan, they laugh. But women will say: ‘That’s not funny. That’s silly.””

  6. Mariamu says:

    Joe-it’s true for the most part. However I grew up watching The Three Stooges and thought they were very funny. I might see this movie now that David has given it a good review.

  7. JS Partisan says:

    Yeah it’s hard to find a woman who loves the Three Stooges. Why they are revolted or disgusted or bothered by it so damn much, has to be something deep. Something really freaking deep.

  8. brack says:

    I never thought The Three Stooges were that funny. I was more fond of stuff like The Little Rascals.

  9. SamLowry says:

    I think the issue is the hostility. Sure, Bud Abbott and Oliver Hardy could get angry, but Moe was abusive. And it wasn’t every now and then, it was constant.

    I’d assume that anyone who was ever the target of abuse wouldn’t find it terribly funny.

  10. Mariamu says:

    And you would be wrong on that count SamLowry.

  11. cadavra says:

    My belief is that women are wired to look for some sort of subtext that just isn’t there. It’s pure comedy: funny for the sake of funny, and nothing more.

  12. SamLowry says:

    The explanation works in my case.

    I was going to add more but I’ll step back and suggest that you’ll never see anything like this ( ) performed by the Three Stooges.

  13. movieman says:

    Considering how well this on-a-budget “Stooges” reboot opened–and
    been received–who wants to predict that Fox will announce a sequel before month’s end?

  14. SamLowry says:

    So…Henri the Cat symbolizes Larry?

  15. Krillian says:

    I thought they were funny as a kid. Then my mom made me count all the violent acts in one short.

    BTW, Will Sasso is 6’3″. The real Curly was 5’5″, and Moe and Larry were each 5’4″. And Sean Hayes and Chris Diamantopolous are 5’11”.

  16. abe says:

    it is offensive that the producers made the quintessential Jewish Stooges into Catholics. Who wrote the screenplay Mel Gibson? they were very Jewy Jews, they spoke with innumerable yiddishisms. When Moe played Hitler he spoke in Yiddish. they greeted people with “Shalom aleichem” . the episode where Larry is disguised as a Chinamen he speaks Yiddish.
    the whole kulturkamph of the series was three lower class Jews in stuffy WASP society of the 30′s and 40′s. I suppose all of this could go over the head of a gentile, but the Farralley should have done some basic research. whats next a Catholic Fiddler on the Roof?

  17. Triple Option says:

    abe says: the episode where Larry is disguised as a Chinamen”

    Post of the Year, dude!

  18. JoeLeydon'sPersonalPornStar says:

    Leno was right.
    You’d have to pay me an incredible amount of money to go see The Three Stooges. And then I’d use some of that money to buy sleeping pills so I could sleep through it.

  19. Yancy Skancy says:

    abe: I haven’t seen the film yet, but my understanding is that the Stooges were foundlings left on the orphanage doorstep, which could mean they’re not necessarily Catholic.

  20. Riley says:

    In a time where movies like ‘Jackass’ are made in multiples, it’s sad to see films like this shunned. The Three Stooges always made me laugh, whether they were hitting each other, making funny noises, or talking in their unique accents. Some of my Dish coworkers who saw the movie say that it wasn’t as good as the old shows. I haven’t seen the Three Stooges yet, but I would like to form my own opinion on the movie, so I added it to my Blockbuster @Home queue, and I should get it in a few days. I can’t wait to see it!

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