Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Three Stooges

THE THREE STOOGES (Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly, 2012)

Directors and brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly revive the cinematic hijinks of three idiot siblings in THE THREE STOOGES.  Split into three linked episodes, the film begins with baby brothers Moe, Larry, and Curly being tossed from a speeding car onto a Catholic orphanage’s doorstep.  The oddball boys struggle to win the hearts of adoptive parents, especially if they come as a package deal, so thirty-odd years later they’re still living with the good sisters and fellow parentless kids.

How much longer Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), Larry (Sean Hayes), and Curly (Will Sasso) can stay is in doubt.  The orphanage needs $830,000 in short order to keep its doors open.  The boys volunteer to raise the money and head into the big city to save their home.

Fortune shines on them, or so they think, when a buxom woman and her supposed husband wish to hire them to ease his pain with a mercy killing.  Why, the couple is even seeking to pay the exact amount the orphanage needs for a night’s work.  Lydia (Sofia Vergara) and Mac (Craig Bierko), who is really her lover, want the Stooges to bump off her wealthy husband, but in the knuckleheads’  typical fashion, they bungle the job.  As they fail to earn the necessary cash, dissension divides their ranks.

THE THREE STOOGES is a rare modern slapstick film that succeeds with remarkable consistency.  There’s nothing new in the way these three galoots sling puns and cause hilarious physical pain to one another and anyone unfortunate to wander into their vicinity.  The Farrellys even borrow the comedic sound effects from the original shorts to punctuate all those eye pokes and knocking heads.  The terrifically timed, well-executed silliness is embraced without irony or any greater sense of purpose.  It delivers what it promises: scene after scene of low comedy done with relish.
Years ago it was reported that THE THREE STOOGES would star Jim Carrey, Sean Penn, and Benicio Del Toro.  Who knows what that unrealized alternate version would have looked like, but those top shelf actors would have been hard-pressed to come through any better than the less familiar stars who got the roles.  Diamantopoulos dons Moe’s bowl cut like a general’s stars and takes authoritative lead of this misfit trio with his rapidly barked orders and deployment of slaps and gouges.  Like a linebacker doing ballet, Sasso brings grace and innocence to Curly as the physical manifestation of the unfiltered id.  Hayes sounds like a dead ringer for the original Larry, and he slides comfortably into the laid-back, old-beyond-his-years manner that defines his personality and prematurely receding hairline.  The kid Moe, Larry, and Curly, played by Skyler Gisondo, Lance Chantiles-Wertz, and Robert Capron, do bang-up interpretations too.

THE THREE STOOGES is a celebration of the stupid that hits one square in the gut, yet the Farrellys ensure that none of the comedic violence feels malicious, even when the victims are easily scorned JERSEY SHORE cast members.  It’s all good fun that connects on a base level.  A nun is accidentally bonked in the face with the head of a sledgehammer.  The Stooges fend off hospital staff and security by wielding newborns producing prodigious urine streams.  The dimwitted trio ruins a golf course and kills who knows how many fish when they misinterpret what it means to get into the farm-raised salmon business.

The flatly shot STOOGES leaves much to be desired visually, but there is plenty to admire in the sharply constructed gags and anarchic spirit powering this lowbrow laugher.  The Farrellys have made a dumb movie, but it takes real skill to be this good at being brainless.

Grade: B

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