By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Mini-Review: The Three Stooges
Simply put, I kinda love it.
The elegant stupidity of The Three Stooges has been effectively resurrected by The Farrellys. After many attempts to put together a movie star version of a Stooges film, they landed on three actors who can blend into the spirit of what they are doing. (Not that I still wouldn’t pay double to watch Sean Penn, Benicio del Toro, and Jim Carrey slap each other around.)
It is the joy of Tom chasing Jerry, Elmer and Daffy trying to keep up with Bugs, Wile E. Coyote vs Road Runner. It is as primal as watching someone slip and fall. No matter how much we sympathize, unexpected bursts of intensity are funny.
And The Three Stooges has a very specific kind of feel. Curly always brought the sweet childish innocence. Larry always knew what was coming, but endured it, somehow knowing the pain would soon end. And Moe led the way as blindly as any general.
One of the deviations from what you might expect in a Stooges movie is that The Farrellys get into the emotion subtext of this enduring relationship. They do it in a gentle, slightly melodramatic way that you might expect from a silent film. But the questions are asked. Why is Moe the leader? What keeps the trio together? What is the depth of the aspiration of the trio… especially as most of the old shorts were centered around jobs into which they fell?
But mostly, it’s about how funny it is when people are hit by surprise. Hit with a hand, poked in the eyes, crushed between two things, crushed by a large object, and a Farrelly favorite… having clumps of your hair pulled out from any hairy part of the male body.
Like My Week With Marilyn or Walk The Line, the new Stooges mimic the old Stooges without being pure imitation. They take a lot of the details, but they also are giving real performances in there. Will Sasso, as our new Curly, not only adds his own physicality (he looks to be about 20% larger than Curly was), but his clothing becomes a character in the film, his suit jackets almost acting. Sean Hayes channels the Larry Fine voice to perfection… really, close your eyes and try not to think it’s the real thing. But he is active in scenes while he is not the center of the gag much more so than I recall Mr. Fine being. And Chris Diamantopoulos, who you will have a hard time recognizing from “Up All Night” or the Charles Schwab commercials, brings a range to Moe, keeping his temper in a range that carries a touch more of the awareness of his role as the leader than the original Moe ever did.
Of course, the scene stealer here isn’t Jennifer Hudson as a nun or the SI Swimsuit covergirl in a nun-kini, but Larry David as Sister Mary Mengele. It’s genius casting. It’s right in David’s narrow range of acting craft, but it also allows him to show the real rage that he never allows himself in other contexts. It’s as if Larry’s version of Larry on Curb Your Enthusiasm suddenly doesn’t care whether he is accepted socially…. in women’s clothes… a nun’s habit to be exact. It’s worth noting that Larry David played a version of Larry Fine on Fridays, the SNL knockoff he starred in eons ago…
Even the way The Farrelly’s negotiate the inclusion of Jersey Shore… it’s pretty perfect, both in the integration of those performers and Moe’s relationship with the show and the idea of success and celebrity.
It’s easy to oversell this movie. It still looks like a Farrelly movie. And it’s still The Three Stooges. But it’s an awful lot of stupid fun. And it’s great for the family… unless you a very sensitive to eye-poking. A true PG, not a PG-13. And certainly one of the best 5 movies of the 35 released widely this year to date.