The first good joke occurs when you stare up at the marquee and see that The Three Stooges is rated PG for parental guidance.
Adults “guiding” their kids though Stooge Land; how does that work? Look, see Moe poke Larry in the eyes. That’s right, two fingers…. Listen to Curly, the way he lands hard on the last syllable – n’yuk, n’yuk, n’yuk.
Dumb, dumber and dumbest, the Three Stooges luckily began their film careers in the Depression, when adult tantrums were permissible. From 1933 and 1934 alone, Moses Horwitz (Moe), his brother Jerome (Curly) and Louis Feinberg (Larry) slapped themselves silly, making 20 movies and shorts.
All of their lunatic manoeuvres, every hoo-hoo-hoo and hammer to the head made it to TV. By 1959, 190 vintage Stooge shorts were showing up on networks Saturday mornings – catnip for Boomer kids constrained by braces and report cards.
Though kids loved them, parents certainly didn’t; maybe because Curly pronounced the word “soitenly.” Now Moe, Curly and Larry are back, courtesy of the Farrelly brothers, Stooge worshippers who once brightened our world with There’s Something About Mary. Their most overt Stooge homage begins with a moving car throwing a duffel bag at an orphanage. A nun (Larry David, closely barbered) opens the bag and gets two fingers in the peepers.
The sight of David in drag might frighten Stooge Nation. Not to mention parents with kids to guide. Does the new Stooge-a-thon go all Farrelly – off-colour and off-the-wall?
Don’t worry, the brothers wanted to make a Stooges movie, not another Farrelly film (good career move after Hall Pass), so they took a salary cut in exchange for casting approval and the understanding they were doing an old-fashioned Stooge movie.
The result, which could be entitled There’s Something About Curly, is an unabashedly moronic celebration of slap shtick. No swearing, but we do see Moe thrust a 20-pound lobster down Larry’s pants, exciting a stampede of vowels punctuated by an operatic howl.
That’s a good one, and The Three Stooges weighs in at about 15 howlers over 90 minutes. Not bad, about the same ratio of hilarity to hokey as the Stooges’ old shorts. Fans also will be glad to know that Moe, Curly and Larry are played with gusto and finesse.
Jim Carrey, Mel Gibson (who has clearly been itching to play Moe), Sean Penn and Russell Crowe had all been attached to the Stooges project. But the Farrellys went B-list, choosing two Canadians – with glowing hearts we see thee rise – to take the parts of the famous knuckleheads.
Toronto’s Chris Diamantopoulos ( 24) plays tantrum-prone Moe as intended – like an angry, 180-pound four-year-old. The Ladner, B.C.-born Will Sasso ( MadTV) handles all of Curly’s moves, the castanet finger-snapping, dog barks, even the bit where Curly throws himself to the floor and runs in circles while lying down, pivoting on his shoulder. And Sean Hayes ( Will & Grace) simply is Larry, from the squinty, near-sighted stare to draggy, head-cold whine.
Still, when The Three Stooges slows down to service the plot – our boys strike out into the world to raise money for their orphanage – the movie is as slack as a hammock. The Stooges were probably meant to be seen on television, Saturday morning, while consuming fast food and coloured juices.
Stooge Nation can do that when the DVD comes out. For fans in a hurry, the movie opens Friday. Bring your own Pop- Tarts and Tang.
Special to The Globe and Mail
The Three Stooges
- Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly
- Written by Mike Cerrone, Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly
- Starring Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos
- Classification: PG
- 2.5 stars