I believe it was the great philosopher Curly Joe who first said that you cannot step in the same stream twice. And perhaps it was Shemp who said that you can’t go home again. Okay, that was the great ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus and the early 20th century American author Thomas Wolfe, but even the least-loved late-era members of the of the literally knuckle-headed 1930’s-1950’s comedy trio The Three Stooges would know that whatever appeal they had could never be re-created. Big time fans the Farrelly brothers came closer to the spirit of their slapstick idols with films like “There’s Something About Mary,” “Shallow Hal,” and “Stuck on You” than in this dead mackerel of an attempt to recreate a Moe, Larry, and Curly for the 21st century. Stars Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry), and Chris Sasso (Curly) have clearly studied the moves of the head-bonking, eye-poking Stooges, but they have no chemistry, poor pacing, an unsteady sense of the Stooges’ appeal, and 80 years of history separating us from the Stooges’ setting.
The original Stooges, Moe and “Curly” Howard and Larry Fine, had years of knockabout experience in vaudeville to perfect their interactions and develop an understanding of their audience. They are funny in the context of their time in their constant efforts to join the middle class and their constant creation of chaos wherever they go. But in this film, they lazily borrow the premise of “The Blues Brothers” (they have to raise money to keep the orphanage that has been their home since they were abandoned there as infants decades ago) and become entangled in a murder plot and “Jersey Shore.” Is this funny? Soitenly not.
The expected slapstick happens, but it is pretty joyless and some of the material crosses a line the Stooges would never have considered. Larry David plays a nun named Sister Mary Mengele, surely a rather arcane reference within the context of this movie and meaner and more provocative than anything in the world of the original Three Stooges. I perked up when I saw them enter a hospital, hoping for a “Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine” reference, but instead there was an extended scene with Moe and Curly, dressed as nurses, aiming naked baby boys at each other to get faces full of pee. “You must be French,” Curly says to one. “That’s a lot of oui-oui.” A child becomes critically ill and it is supposed to be funny when for a moment it appears that she has died. Adoptive families and their friends will be disturbed by a scene where kids are lined up at the orphanage in front of prospective parents and are told “no wonder your parents didn’t want you.” And whose idea was it that the Stooges should become involved in a murder for hire plot as a gorgeous wife (Sofia Vergara) plots to kill her wealthy husband? Or to have Moe go on “Jersey Shore?” Or a Bob Dylan song? Or a close-up of a lion’s testicles? Or, when a character shoots a gun, the line, “I thought you were a Democrat!” Why, I oughta……
This movie is proof positive that the Stooges were three of a kind (okay, five if you count Shemp and Curly Joe — we will not speak of Joe Besser), and, definitively inimitable.
Parents should know that this film includes constant comic violence including head-slamming and eye-poking (directors come on screen at the end to warn children not to attempt the stunts at home), some crude humor including language and graphic, gross-out potty jokes, murder for hire, scary lion,and insensitive and deliberately offensive material about nuns and adoption
Family discussion: How does this version hold up to the The Three Stooges movies of the 1930’s-50’s? What are the biggest differences?