The Three Stooges
Given their propensity for physical comedy, it seems only natural that Peter and Bobby Farrelly would spend upwards of ten years working to get a faithful adaptation of The Three Stooges made into a feature length film. The ebb and flow of comedy is difficult to pin down, and nothing says “acquired taste” quite like the original shorts. The cartoonish slapstick pokes and slaps, the casual violence, and shrill voice performances are faithfully recreated, making the resulting film a work of honest dedication. But in a climate run by Judd Apatow and friends, there has probably never been a place and time where The Three Stooges felt less necessary.
Told in three 27-or-so minute long “shorts”, the titular trio of Moe, Larry, and Curly (Chris Diamantopolous, Sean Hayes, and Will Sasso, respectively) are literally thrown onto the doorstep of an orphanage run by Mother Superior (Jane Lynch, playing the straight man) and spend the first couple decades of their life wrecking chaos on the place. When it is threatened with closure they set off on a traditionally Farrelly-esque road trip to raise money.
The film is consistently jokey and over-the-top, but the actual quality is inconsistent. Early on, there’s a tinge of cruelty to the comedy, opening with Mother Mary Mengele (Larry David, the appearance of whom in nun’s garb may be the movie’s best visual joke) screaming at singing orphans and a hilariously mean sequence where the nuns try to pass off the stooges as the institution’s only offerings. How these and some of the film’s other surprisingly grotesque moments will go over with the children the film is apparently marketed to, though, is a mystery. The extended slapping-and-poking bits are as impressive as the originals from a choreography standpoint, but they’re not particularly funny.
Throughout there are suggestions from the filmmakers that the actual film’s development was fraught with difficulties, from the film’s premise (lovable goofballs trying to raise money for the joy of children) to a seemingly self-reflexive comment near the end of the film suggesting that the “Jersey Shore kids helped with the down-payment” (the cast has an inexplicable extended cameo). A few months ago, the film’s disastrous trailer appeared, and so that any of the jokes stick at all is part of the benefit of wildly lowered expectations. But the worst part of the whole enterprise is that the Farrellys already made a great Three Stooges film about twenty years ago – it was called Dumb & Dumber.