Friday, April 20, 2012

THE THREE STOOGES Gets the Last Slap


- The Three Stooges is not exactly a great movie, but it's also not even close to the abomination that some predicted. Debate if you want the merits of having three modern-day actors assume the personas of the original Stooges, but certainly, there's no doubting that the cast and crew behind this new film - in particular the three lead actors and directors The Farrelly Bros. - approached it with a degree of affection and reverence for the source material. The new Stooges flick is a loving homage to the classic comedic trio - it's silly and stupid and full of broad slapstick. In other words, it's exactly what you'd expect from a Three Stooges movie. Still, the film is also a testament to the fact that what works well on television - in short bursts - doesn't always translate well to the big screen. As a narrative, this movie is admittedly pretty lame. It works best when it's not trying to tell a story, but just giving us cartoonish, absurdist slapstick in the classic Stooges style.

First of all, you've got to give it up for the three main actors in the film. On one level, these are pitch-perfect imitations of the original Stooges. Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe, Will Sasso as Curly, and Sean Hayes as Larry each look, act, and fight just like the original Stooges, to the extent that it's almost uncanny. But more so than that, these guys go all out to bring these legendary personalities to life. You've got to admire their dedication to the characters. Not only that, but all three guys nail not just the cadences and mannerisms, but the chemistry. The verbal battles - and physical battles - between the Stooges are the highlight of the film, and the actors deliver vintage Stooges put-downs, puns, and non-sequiters with vim and vigor. And the same goes for the eye-pokes, noggin-knockers, and crotch-shots.

The movie is also packed with all sorts of interesting comedic actors in supporting roles. Unfortunately, no one gets to do much of note that isn't one of the Stooges. So the likes of Jane Lynch, Sofia Vergara, and Craig Bierko all feel wasted and/or underutilized. Only Larry David makes an impression, as a temperamental nun - but that's more out of the sheer novelty of seeing Larry David play a nun. The lack of good supporting roles also sort of speaks to the fact that the story here is ultra-flimsy. It's not that I needed an amazing plotline in a Three Stooges flick, but I at least wanted a funny plotline that allows for maximum zaniness. What we get is pretty blah - the Stooges, having grown up to adulthood in an orphanage, never having been adopted - now hear that the orphanage they've called home is out of funds and will soon shut down for good. Only a vast sum of money can save the orphanage, and so the Stooges decide to venture out into the world and scrape up the dough they need to save it.

The joke thus becomes that Larry, Curly, and Moe have never been into the outside world. This explains (sort of) their outdated clothes and speech, and also affords ample opportunity for the script to cram in lame jokes about iPods and reality TV. In fact, the cast of The Jersey Shore plays a large part in the story. There are some scattered moments where the fish-out-of-water humor leads to some nice bits of satire (seeing Moe as a cast member on Jersey Shore is admittedly pretty hilarious), but mostly, you wonder why the script needed this aspect to it. Eventually, the Stooges' quest for moolah leads them to a conniving adultress (Vergara), who sets the Stooges up as patsies in her plot to off her millionaire husband. On paper, the Stooges stumbling their way into a Dumb & Dumber-esque caper is appealing, but unfortunately, The Farrelly Bros. fail to make this sort of plot work as well as it did in their 90's-era classic. As the script piles on the twists and turns, it can all get a little tiresome. Really, we just want to see The Stooges get hit in the nards.

And get hit they do. The film's most inspired bits are its long set-piece gags that place the Stooges in extended scenes of silly slapstick. There's a comedic purity in watching three guys poke, slap, and clobber each other in scenes of cartoonish violence that have an almost ballet-like artistry. I only wish the movie had more of these scenes, and that the elaborately-choreographed slapstick went even bigger and crazier.

I will say though - a good chunk of the early part of the movie features young, kid versions of the Stooges - and it works surprisingly well. The kid actors are just as game as their adult counterparts, and they're all really funny and on-point. 

Still, I'll admit, I occasionally got bored and/or frustrated with The Three Stooges during its more eye-rolling moments. And yet, the movie is so well-meaning and good-natured that it's hard not to have a certain appreciation and affection for it. Kids, in particular, will probably love it - and indeed, when I saw it in the theater, it was the younger audience members who laughed the hardest. And the movie does mostly work as a film that's fun for kids and families (though between Sofia Vergara, and Kate Upton as a curvaceous nun, there's enough cleavage in this film to give more than a few young 'uns some funny feelings) - and it essentially plays out like a live action Saturday morning cartoon - it's even divided into three distinct "episodes." Overall, this is a nice tribute to some true comedy pioneers, with some inspired zaniness here and there - and the Stooges faithful should be won over by the film's respect for the original material. At the same time, the movie is fun, but not necessarily a must-see if you're not a slapstick or Stooges afficionado.

My Grade: B

No comments:

Post a Comment