Sunday, April 22, 2012
If you’ve never seen a “Three Stooges” comic short or any of their feature length comedies, the new Farrelly Brothers’ farce is an awful way to acquaint yourself with Moe, Curly, and Larry. Indeed, it is difficult to believe the same guys who created “There’s Something about Mary” and “Kingpin” concocted this sophomoric comedy. Unlike the television biography that Mel Gibson produced about the Three Stooges back in 2000, the Brothers Farrelly wanted to revive the fictional morons rather than chronicle their real-life counterparts. Further, the Farrellys decided to let the “Stooges” wreck havoc in a contemporary setting. Basically, the Farrellys cannot rekindle the comic genius of these maniac Jewish comics who acquired a reputation for poking eyes, slapping heads, and twisting noses. Sadly, the laughs are few and far between. This $30 million imitation of the Three Stooges qualifies as fair. Juveniles may giggle at the geysers of urine, but neither the Farrellys nor the new Stooges generate a third as many laffs as the originals.
Chiefly known for their crude and rude movies, the Farrellys usually get a PG-13 or an R-rating for vulgar content. “The Three Stooges” (** out of ****) marks their first PG-13 release. The PG-rating covers violent slapstick action and some rude and suggestive humor, including language. Nevertheless, the Farrellys give the eponymous threesome every opportunity to slap, punch, and gouge each other with glee. Every “Three Stooges” movie basically is a comedy of errors. Before the dust settles, the trio has inflicted enough pain and injury on each other to land them in the emergency room. The colossal stupidity that these three display in their best efforts to perform a task is side-splitting. The best scene the Farrellys conjure up occurs in a hospital newborn ward. The Stooges juggle babies, and the infants empty their bladders on them in a shower of urine. Were this not enough, the Farrellys convinced the cast of the hit reality TV show “Jersey Shore” to suffer the wrath of Moe. Watching Moe reprimand the “Jersey Shore” regulars is entertaining. Most of the other gags in “The Three Stooges” have a Rube Goldberg quality. When they try to remove a bell from a roof, the Stooges lose the head of a sledge hammer. The sledge head flies off into a water bucket. The last thing that happens in that scene involves the use of that particular water bucket. The person intending to refresh another doesn’t know about its’ contents.
Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos do a credible job of impersonating Larry, Curly and Moe. The complicated material that “Me, Myself & Irene” scenarist Mike Cerrone and the Farrellys serve up defeat their efforts. “The Three Stooges” unfolds in three back-to-back episodes, each slightly longer than the Columbia Pictures shorts. The Farrellys and Cerrone have treated this “Stooges” saga as an ‘origins’ film. They provide some background about the trio. The protagonists appear as children in the first episode and later predominantly as adults in the second and third episodes. Believe me; nothing in any of these three episodes will have you in stitches. “The Three Stooges” resembles an inferior pilot for a proposed television series. Our threesome land on the front steps of the Sisters of Mercy Orphanage after a car careens up and a duffle bag flies out the window. The first nun to inspect the duffle, Sister Mary-Mengele (Larry David of “Seinfeld”), takes two fingers in the eyes and topples backwards off the steps. Eventually, Sister Mary-Mengele becomes their chief adversary. If the name Mengele sounds familiar, Nazi Josef Mengele was the notorious SS Officer who presided over the destiny of prisoners at Auschwitz. Anyway, Sister Mary doesn’t cut them any slack. Another nun follows up and finds three infants in the duffle. They look like tyke-sized replicas of the adult Moe, Larry, and Curly.
Mother Superior (Jane Lynch of “Role Models”) and the sisters try to trick a gullible husband and wife, the Harters (Stephen Collins of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and Carley Craig of “The Heartbreak Kid”) into adopting Moe. Rather than letting the prospective parents see every child, the sisters trot out just the Three Stooges. When it appears the nuns have fooled the Harters into taking the trio off their hands, another child, Teddy (Jake Peck), enters the room by accident. The trio end up stuck at the orphanage for life. Twenty-five years later, they are still living at the Sisters of Mercy. Moe (newcomer Chris Diamantopoulos with a distinctive bowl-shaped haircut) emerges as the boss of the bunch. Larry (Sean Hayes of “The Bucket List”), Curly (Will Sasso of “Southland Tales”), and Moe perform chores for the sisters.
As a consequence of the Stooges’ audacious exploits, the orphanage cannot afford its insurance premiums. Monsignor Ratliffe (Brian Doyle-Murray of “Caddyshack”) shows up to warn the Mother Superior about this crisis. They have about a month before they must close the orphanage. Ratliffe tells the Stooges that $830-thousand is required to save the place. The remainder of this shallow comedy concerns the cockeyed antics of the Stooges as they struggle to obtain that $830-thousand. The obstacles they face are well-nigh insurmountable. Furthermore, these knuckle-heads are completely clueless about how they can save the day. Quite by accident, they encounter Lydia (Sofía Vergara of “Four Brothers”) and her shady boyfriend Mac (Craig Bierko of “Sour Grapes”) as they are searching for somebody to kill her husband. Of course, the Stooges think that Mac is married to Lydia. In reality, Lydia is married to grown-up Teddy (Kirby Heyborne of “Saints and Soldiers”) the kid from the orphanage. Mac convinces them that he wants to die and they plan his demise. When Lydia offers our numbskulls $830-thousand, they prepare to let blood.