Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
As Hollywood marches on with the reboot/reimagine/rehash/remake craze, so comes The Three Stooges. The unparalleled masters of slapstick comedy, Moe, Larry and Curly (no Shemp here) have been watched by generation after generation. Over time, the same glee people derive from watching them poke and hit each other has morphed into the current fascination with shots to the groin best characterized by shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos and the gentleman scholars of the Jackass crew.
Resuscitating the Stooges’ franchise is a throwback, and likely an experiment; to see if the kindler, gentler examples of abuse will still appeal to the masses. Well, there’s good news for the studio on that point … if their target demo is 7-10 year-olds.
The gaggle of children in the theater were eating up the antics on-screen like Go-Gurt with extra meth and I haven’t heard kids laugh that much at a screening … well … maybe ever. And I understand why. Slapstick is funny. However, fans of the originals and anyone no longer in elementary school may want to think twice (or at all) before plunking down their good money to see this in theaters.
On the plus side, the casting department did a tremendous job of filling these iconic shoes – with Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, and Will Sasso playing Moe, Larry and Curly respectively. Hayes is by far the more familiar of the group to most audiences, which makes blending into the character slightly more difficult but he, like his compatriots, come so close to matching up with the originals.
The goofy sounds associated with each hit, slip, and crash all return. Even the notion of presenting the film in three episodes rather than acts, harken back to the TV show. Directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly obviously know the material but were more interested in reliving the past than understanding how to bring the characters into the modern day. And it’s at this point where things go sideways.
First off, the film begins with our protagonists as orphan children already up to the hijinks we’ve come to expect from their adult selves. This sequence takes far too long, which is saying something for a movie with a 92-minute runtime. The story then shifts 25 years ahead, to modern day. Oddly, the nuns who work at the orphanage don’t age a day but everyone else does … there may be some kind of joke at play here but it sailed right over this college graduate’s head like a football thrown by Brett Favre after bionic arm surgery.
The plot predictably turns into a quest for the Stooges to raise the money necessary to save the orphanage but unpredictably takes a turn for humor that really isn’t in keeping with the spirit of the franchise. Sofia Vergara (thankfully dressed in attire a size too small if you know what I mean) hires the guys to kill her husband. Murder … yeah … that’s great for kids! Umm, wait. Then when the inevitable falling out between the trio happens, Moe ends up as a cast member on Jersey Shore. No, you didn’t read that wrong: JERSEY SHORE. I again call attention to the appropriateness for kids when you’ve got JWoww and Snookie parading around in shirts made for 10 year-olds.
“But Ian!”, you say (even if you don’t, play along, it works better), “Surely this movie isn’t supposed to only appeal to kids”. No, I’m sure that wasn’t the intention. However, it was the result. While there are occasional gags and jokes that elicited a chuckle or two, the humor and overall story is best described as monotonous. It starts at one level and just carries through with very little dynamism. Twice I counted myself doing that “head-jerk” motion where you hope no one else saw you almost falling asleep. Despite the fact that the scene may have shifted locales and we were potentially closer to resolving the storyline, it all felt like the same joke being repurposed.
“But Ian!”, you say again (thanks for being such a sport), “That’s largely how the original show went”. I’ll give you that. But if you’re rebooting this for a new generation, you need to make it feel different in some fashion (bringing in ‘The Situation’ doesn’t count). The exact same enjoyment can be derived from watching old episodes in the comfort of your own home (and for free! Well, you’re paying for cable but … look, consider it at no extra charge. There. Happy?). And being able to entertain children isn’t hard: Add 1 part bright colors, insert 2 parts funny sounds, present in a venue where sugary snacks are sold. Done.
So while I give kudos to the actors for delivering some spot-on impressions and can see that the Farrelly’s respect the source material, there’s just no real reason for this movie to exist. The Three Stooges clearly knows where it comes from but it has very little ambition of understanding where it should be in 2012 or, heaven forbid, in the future. Do yourself a favor and either DVR the original or at least wait for this to hit “free” cable in the near future. Giving Hollywood the idea that they don’t even need to be creative in their reboots is just asking for some real train wrecks in the near future. This is merely a fender bender in the scope of the damage that could be done if left unchecked.
The Three Stooges hits theaters on April 13, 2012 and is rated PG for slapstick action violence, some rude and suggestive humor including language.