This had to be a labour of love. Modern cinemagoers were hardly taking to the Twittersphere to angrily demand a new Three Stooges movie; theatres were not being occupied by teenagers protesting the lack of slapstick in the gritty superhero films dominating the release schedule. No, an earnest and overwhelmingly silly tribute to an 80-year-old vaudeville act isn’t just casually birthed; it’s heaved out of the creative canal with much gnashing of teeth. Peter and Bobby Farrelly have spent a number of years trying to put this flick together. When frequent delays caused stars Jim Carrey, Sean Penn, and Benicio Del Toro to walk away, the budget was subsequently slashed. Even still, you could never accuse this of being a compromised vision. No one except the Farrelly brothers could have possibly had a vision for this thing.
Their unflinching devotion is apparent throughout The Three Stooges. In its swift 90-minute runtime, that fondness was enough to convert this critic from a doubter to a believer. I couldn’t fathom the concept of Larry, Curly, and Moe being transported to the 21st century, and maybe I still don’t, but the laughs came often and easily to me. When a joke falls flat, the charm and unwavering commitment of the leads – as well as that affection from the writer-director duo – proves enough of a distraction until the next joke arrives (and you never have to wait long). It’s unlikely to spark a revival of interest in the original trio. Those, however, with a penchant for consequence-free violence and olde-timey hijinks should be mighty amused. Basically, it’s for dads and dads-at-heart.
Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, and Will Sasso are the brave souls charged with the thankless task of depicting original stooges Moe, Larry, and Curly respectively (Shemp is, sadly, nowhere to be seen). The actors themselves would likely admit to being second-rate stand-ins for the original team, but they definitely go for it, and never once wink at the audience amidst their exuberantly physical performances. The picture is divided into three 30-minute episodes, though each builds upon the last. We get to see them as baby boys unceremoniously abandoned at the Sisters of Mercy Orphanage, where they grow up and cause havoc for Mother Superior (Jane Lynch), Sister Mary-Mengele (Larry David), and Sister Rosemary (Jennifer Hudson). At the age of 35, they’re still unadopted and totally out-of-touch with reality. This perhaps explains their ability to withstand the extreme amount of pain they regularly dole out to one another.
When the orphanage can no longer pay the bills, the stooges decide to raise the necessary $830,000 on their own and save ‘the penguins’ and all their little buddies from a fate worse than foreclosure: separation. Led by the short-tempered Moe, nitwits Larry and Curly embark on a seemingly doomed quest; one on which they will be hired as assassins by the sultry, husband-hating Lydia (Sofia Vergara), reconnect with old friend Teddy (Kirby Heyborne), and temporarily appear on Jersey Shore. So charming is the sincerity of the rest of the feature that the last thing doesn’t even seem like a gauche grab for relevancy!
It’d be a fool’s errand to make a passionate case as to why everyone should give The Three Stooges a chance. If you’re not a fan of the original threesome’s sense of humour, then you should know to back away slowly. For fans of the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker spoofs of yore, and those yearning for the Farrellys to return to raucous form, The Three Stooges is idiot proof.
The Three Stooges is now showing in QLD. It arrives in NSW, VIC, and SA cinemas June 28, and hits WA and ACT cinemas July 5.