I'm sure when the slapstick comedy trio The Three Stooges debuted in the 1930s, no one knew what kind of impact they would have on comedy as we know it. Their screwy hijinks were memorable and ridiculous, and there's nothing quite like the original talents of Moe, Larry and Curly. Because of this, filmmaking brothers The Farrellys have been trying to get a feature film about The Three Stooges made for years now. At one time, Benicio del Toro had been attached to star as Moe, with Sean Penn as Larry and Jim Carrey as Curly -- who was trying to pile on the pounds to play the heftier character. While I'm not quite sure they would have been dead-ringers for the original guys, the movie definitely had some star power going for it. However, mostly unknowns took these lead roles, with Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) playing Larry, Will Sasso (the short-lived S*** My Dad Says TV show) playing Curly and Chris Diamantopoulos (24) starring as Moe. Each actor steps into their respective roles of the characters quite well, doing their best to capture the spirit -- and mannerisms -- of the original actors.
While some have a problem with actors playing actors playing characters, The Farrelly Brothers have actually paid a pretty good tribute to the famed trio. From the splash screen intros that feel like the title screens of the old short films that served to lable different acts in the film, to the way the characters dress, The Three Stooges feels like The Three Stooges. The big difference is, however, that these guys pretty much are playing fish-out-of-water in modern times. Raised in an orphanage since they were abandoned as babies, The Stooges are the same characters we know them as from birth. Even child versions of the characters are shown either balding -- like Larry and Curly -- or have that signature bowl hair cut, like Moe. While that is quite a stretch in and of itself, that's just an inkling of what kind of movie the 2012 The Three Stooges is; it's silly from beginning to end.
With The Three Stooges, you either love their schtick or you absolutely hate it. The same can be said for this film, really. While The Farrelly Brothers can't help but make an overall dumb and silly film here, it's the performances of Sasso, Hayes and Diamantopoulos that make this film (they even all get the voices down very well). It's dripping with a sense of nostalgia and serves as a trip down memory lane. However, because the Farrellys are sticking so close to the Stooges formula, everything characteristic to them is present -- the violent slapstick (eye-gouges, slapping, poking, kicking, and of course, hitting each other with sharp and metallic objects) is frequent, coupled with the classic goofy sound effects. What's funny, too, is that these guys are surrounded mostly by "straight men," characters who are played rather serious and react to the antics of the Stooges (with the exception of Curb Your Enthusiasm's Larry David who dresses in drag to play one of the stereotypical, old school rough and tough nuns, named Sister Mary-Mengele). At times, it borders on feeling too much like one of those failed attempts at inserting classic characters into modern settings (The Smurfs, Garfield, The Brady Bunch, Alvin and the Chipmunks, etc). But just as a joke about an iPhone ("Eye phone"... sigh) returns you to the reality that these guys are out of their time, they get back to the regular Stooges schtick that works and the movie feels like it has a natural flow again.
The plot involving their origin in a Catholic orphanage even feels like something they may have done a film about back in their days of origin. The Three Stooges represent an era of comedy and filmmaking when all of it was considerably less vulgar or crass. Sexual humor was either non-existent or at least more subtle (like The Marx Brothers' brand of humor). Profanity, too, wasn't anywhere to be found in those films, so the Farrellys actually seem to capture a bit of the essence of an era long gone. Sadly, that makes a film like this a fish-out-of-water itself in 2012's era of entertainment, with less modern movie watchers being all that receptive to this kind of comedic style.
It's tough to take a group of characters that worked best in short films and convert it into a feature-length storytelling. In the way that the Farrellys' own Dumb & Dumber (1994) plays out better as a string of really funny bits held together by a thin and cheesy plot, The Three Stooges works on a similar level. While it probably will never be as much of a cult classic as Dumb & Dumber, The Three Stooges is easily dumb fun and will serve as a fine go-to choice for silly gags and a style of humor that is likely to be considered more as a guilty pleasure than something favored. Still, a strongly written and witty story won't be found here. The choice to show the trio as babies and little kids (with the signature hair styles) was a pretty silly one. While I understand its usage for an origin tale, it was a pretty bad. It's not until the adult Stooges appear on screen that the movie begins to find its legs. Also, the Farrellys can't help but reach for some low brow humor, and they use a pretty over-the-top gag where the threesome grab infants from a hospital newborn unit and use them as pee pistols (yup) in a goofy battle between each other (which even ends with one of them catapulting dirty diapers across the room). It's one of those scenes that filmmakers have to know critics will hate, but somehow they thought it was entertaining enough to include. Thankfully, that scene really is the worst of the poorest choices for comedy, while most of the rest of the moments really feel like the usual Three Stooges style.
Given the Farrelly Brothers' past history with films, I was pretty shocked to find that The Three Stooges was only rated PG. The violence is goofy and slapstick, although the plot partly involves a woman trying to hire Moe, Larry and Curly to kill her husband for money. This then leads to a scene (minor spoiler alert here) where a man is accidentally hit by a bus, thrown through the air, dragged by a street sweeping truck, pounced on by a kid on a pogo stick and then struck in the leg with an arrow. He doesn't die, and later we see him in a full body cast where they try to drop dynamite inside his cast to blow him up (it just results in his face getting blackened like in a cartoon). There's also a moment, just like in the classic films, where Moe drags an active chainsaw across the top of Curly's head, shooting sparks into the air and only damaging the chainsaw. Obviously such an act would be much more... lethal in real life and kids watching this should know this, but I do remember seeing such antics in the classic films when I was little and understanding that it wasn't real. Still, after the movie ends, two hunky looking guys claiming to be the Farrelly brothers (and they're definitely not really the Farrellys) come on screen to address the audience and inform them that the violence wasn't real, and they even show how the hammer used to hit the guys on the head was made of soft rubber. It's actually kind of neat that they would try to reassure young viewers that they shouldn't mimic the violence in the film. There isn't really much profanity in the film even though the MPAA rating suggests otherwise. It's actually limited to some uses of "Good Lord" and "Oh my G-d," while the rest is pretty much Moe calling Curly and Larry stuff like "moron" and "lame brain." Needless to say, this isn't soft or "innocent" family comedy. There is a little bit of crude humor here as well, with the most inescapable being a brief shot of a lion's testicles which are randomly hit with flying peanut. There's also another visual gag at the end where Sister Bernice, played by supermodel Kate Upton, is shown in a revealing, busty bikini. It's kept to a brief shot of her in the film, but it still felt pretty awkwardly out of place here. Overall, I'm surprised how tame the film is compared to how crass most comedies can be today. Still, parents should exhibit some caution before showing this one to the kids, especially if they are prone to imitative behavior.
I found myself pleasantly surprised with the homage paid to The Three Stooges with this little cinematic nod to them. It basically serves as a tribute to these comedians, even if it isn't the best or most memorable movie that could have been made for them. The Farrellys aimed solely for creating a fun trip down memory lane, and with that goal in mind, they actually did a pretty good job. It's not the funniest movie you'll see all year, but if you're into the kind of humor that The Three Stooges offer, you just might enjoy this one.
- John DiBiase (reviewed: 7/14/12)
DVD Special Features Review
Deleted/Extended Scenes (9:30) - Although there are about nine and a half minutes of deleted scenes, they're mostly just additional one-liners that are padded with existing film footage from the final film. For example, the first scene just has more of Larry David's nun talking with the other nuns about leaving, and then there's a brief extended scene where the kids are talking to Mother Superior about being adopted. After that, we have a brief added piece of dialog where the trio ask Lydia if they can finish watching "Judge Judy" after she fires them. We then see about one additional line added to the scene where they find Mac in his hospital room. The longest additional footage comes on the "fish farm" where we see the guys digging for worms. It's actually a funny moment because it's a classic example of when Curly and Larry are doing something and are both unknowingly beating up Moe at the same time. We then see Larry flirting with the receptionist at the law firm and there's a brief additional suggestive piece of dialog. The next scene is a moment at the party where the boys juggle an electric eel (part of this is seen in the end credits music video). And finally, the ending adds a brief line where Larry licks his hands and brushes back his hair after he notices how sexy Sister Bernice looks. Moe then smacks him and asks him where his piety is. The last moment is a cut joke from Larry as he makes fun of Stephen Hawking.
The Three Stooges Mash-Up (3:11) - Sadly, the only other special feature on here is a 3-minute montage of antics from the stooges that are already seen in the movie.
For special features, The Three Stooges sorely lacks substance. A making-of featurette, perhaps the cast talking about the movie, or even casting tests all would have been neat to see. Even an original Stooges short or at least a spotlight/mini-documentary on the original team would have been a nice addition.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 7/13/12)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: The stooges mistake the monsignor having fallen off a ladder onto a group of nuns below as getting "handsy" (frisky) with them; Larry sees Lydia and comments on her legs, "Wow, look at those getaway sticks!"; Moe and Curly dress as women nurses; Curly, dressed up as a woman nurse briefly flirts with a male receptionist; We see a male infant's bare butt; As Lydia helps Mac over a wall, he steps on her chest and a honking sound is made; We see a peanut shoot out of a dolphin blowhole and strike the visible testicles of a lion; Some girls on a reality show show significant cleavage in their outfits; The camera focuses on a rat burrowing into Lydia's cleavage; We see Sister Bernice in a tiny, busty bikini that shows quite a bit of her figure and skin.
Vulgarity/Language: 1 "Oh G-d," 2 "Good L-rd," 1 "oh my G-d"
Alcohol/Drugs: A lot of people have drinks at a big party. Larry laps from a champagne fountain while Curly drinks from the punch bowl.
Blood/Gore: We see a man with bruises on his face and black eyes; A young man's eyes are seen bulging as a microwave on his head is turned on (thus frying his head); Mac has several big bloody scrapes across his face;
Violence: A baby pokes a nun in the eyes and they go toppling off the steps; Curly hits a nun in the head with a mallet; Moe pulls Larry's hair; Moe rips off a piece of Larry's hair and pulls out a few of Curly's nose hairs; Moe hits Curly and Larry in the nose; A nun knocks out a support beam under the stooge's bed and they fall to the ground; A nun crunches Curly's fingers; Moe hits Larry in the head with a hammer; Larry accidentally hits Moe in the head with a mallet which knocks a crowbar into his face. Larry apologizes and Moe hits him with the mallet and smacks his face twice; Moe runs a chainsaw across Curly's head, but it results in the chainsaw being damaged instead; Moe shoves two donuts in Curly's ears; A bell hits a nun in the head and then the Stooges fall on her. They then accidentally hit her head with a fire hydrant and a mallet top from a bucket of water; They accidentally knock a ladder out from under the monsignor and he falls on top of some nuns nearby. They mistake him for attacking those nuns and so they beat him up, rip out his armpit hair and jump on top of him before the nuns rescue him. He then smacks all three of them; Moe slaps Larry and Curly; Moe smacks Curly's head and then pokes him in the eyes and then smacks both him and Larry; Moe stomps on Curly's foot; A man is accidentally hit by a bus, thrown a distance, then caught in a street sweeper, pounced on with a pogo stick and hit in the leg with an arrow; Lydia shoves Larry; Moe pokes Curly in the eyes and hits Larry on the head when he sticks out his tongue, causing him to bite it; Lydia slaps all three of them and then throws them over a wall; Moe hits Curly in the nose and then drags him and Larry by their faces; A nurse drags Larry across the floor; Moe rips eyelashes off of Larry; Curly slaps a male receptionist in the face; Moe hits Larry in the back of the head; A baby bites Curly's finger; The stooges hit a nurse accidentally with a pile of diapers; Moe uses a potato peeler on Curly's head; They drop dynamite into a full-body cast and it blows up (but no one is hurt); Moe trips a security guard head-first into an ironing board. Thinking he's dead, they put two irons on his chest, thinking they're paddles and steam rises from it/his chest; Moe slaps Larry and Curly before they grab a fire hose and jump off a building and crash to the ground on top of someone walking by; Moe smacks Larry's hand into his face; Moe pokes a random man in the face; The guys poke a security guard in the eyes, kick him, and pull his shirt over his head; Larry and Moe use Curly's head as a battering ram; Moe pushes Curly who bounces back and hits the two of them and it begins a long session of smacking and beating each other in a slapstick fashion; A man taps his head with a gun while talking; Mac smacks a lion repeatedly; A peanut shoots out of a dolphin blowhole and it strikes the testicles of a lion, which gets angry and lunges at a man; Moe uses a cheese grater on a guy's foot and pokes and smacks a few other guys. He then rips out a girl's nose hairs; Curly accidentally staples a paper to the back of a man's head. Larry then slaps Curly. Curly then hits and punches Larry a couple times; We see video of Moe slapping some guys; Moe pokes Snooki in the eyes; We see Moe slapping more guys again on TV again repeatedly. Moe uses a curling iron on a girl's tongue and then puts a microwave on a guy's head and turns it on; Moe smacks Larry and Curly in the face; A girl pushes Curly before Moe grabs him by the ear; The stooges accidentally knock a man over and then Larry accidentally slaps Moe; Moe pushes Curly's head into a tank of water and he comes up with a lobster hanging from his face. He then puts it down Larry's pants and we hear a crunch sound. The lobster gets thrown through the air and lands on Lydia's face. Moe throws a squid at Larry who ducks and it lands on a man's face. Larry goes to get it off with a shovel and hits the man in the face; Moe hits Larry in the face with the butt of a shotgun, which goes off and shoots a bunch of balloons, dropping a suspended girl onto a cake; Moe slaps Curly's face and drags him by the ear; Several people hold guns on other people; A car goes off the road into a lake and sinks; We see an explosion in a lake; Moe slaps Larry; Curly leans on a pole that falls and hits a nun on the head, knocking her into a pool; We see a disclaimer at the end of the film where two guys pretending to be the film's directors demonstrate that the slapstick humor was faked; During a music video in the credits, we see the boys struggling with an electric eel and then one hits another on the head with a mallet.
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.