Following a long, torrid production history, The Threes Stooges film has finally arrived with a barely audible splash. There was once promise for this big screen reinterpretation of one of the most beloved TV series to ever air. At one stage Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn and Jim Carrey were set to star as the titular Stooges, a cast that sounded equal parts insane as it did brilliant. But for various reasons each of the aforementioned actors dropped out of the film, leaving us with the new trio of Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos to step into the shoes of Larry, Curly and Moe. And while it’s hard to deny that these talented actors excel in the daunting roles presented to them, it’s also hard to deny that the film is a grating experience. There are certainly some laughs to be had here, surprising considering how terrible the promotional material for the film made it look, however the extended runtime, repetitive gags and a general lack of a coherent plot make this trip down memory lane tough to endure.
The Threes Stooges is so lacking in the story department that there’s little point to detail it in a long-winded synopsis here. So in three sentences here’s everything you need to know. The orphanage the Stooges grew up in will be demolished unless they can muster up a large sum of money. The Stooges are mistakenly hired by a cold-hearted temptress (Sofía Vergara) to murder her wealthy husband. Many ridiculous hijinks are had along the way. The End. There’s not much more to the plot other than a series of extended slapstick-heavy skits, however the way in which this tale of cartoonish violence unfolds is told in a unique manner. The film is divided into three separate Three Stooges ‘episodes’. The theory behind this idea is that we’re watching three episodes of The Three Stooges, each of which runs for roughly 30 minutes. So taking this unusual format in account, this review will break down the film episode by episode, examining the highlights and bitter lowlights of each.
Episode 1: More Orphan Than Not
I was one of the many viewers expecting the worst from The Three Stooges. The trailers for it hinted at a terribly confused mess void of any comedy, but even considering the ominous storm clouds hovering over the film, I was still willing to give it a chance. So with my mind clear and expectations low, I sat in my rock-hard cinema seat, curious as to what to expect. The cinema lights dimmed, the credits rolled and it happens; young Stooges. That’s the first punch to the groin the film delivers, three youngsters attempting to copy the Stooge’s schtick and failing miserably. To be fair Robert Capron who plays young Curly isn’t too bad, but the others, horrible. On top of this we have to endure the usually hilarious Larry David inexplicably dressed as a Nun and yelling a torrid of polite obscenities in a gravely voice. You want to laugh since it’s Larry David, but everything that comes out of his mouth is so devoid of comedy that you just shift in your seat uncomfortably.
After what feels like eons the film finally jumps forward in time and introduces us to the fully-grown Stooges. And it’s here that the film actually shows some signs of life. Right from the moment they first step foot on-screen, Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos all replicate the physicality of the original Stooges with great accuracy. They’re all frantic and precise in every movement they make while each act of slapstick violence committed feels perfectly rehearsed. This is clearly a trio of actors who worked hard to attain the commendable results they achieve here. In terms of set pieces, the highlight in this early stage involves the Stooges attempting to fix the orphanage’s bell, a kind deed that obviously ends terribly. I’ll admit that I didn’t want to laugh at the acts of idiocy unfolding before me during this sequence, but some of the choreographed routines and unexpected moments of harsh violence had me laughing out loud.
Episode 2: The Bananas Split
It’s here that the aforementioned subplot involving Lydia, the evil temptress who hires the Stooges to murder her husband, is introduced. I always thought of Three Stooges as a rather squeaky clean bunch, sure they poke each other in the eyes and rip out Larry’s hair from time to time, but it’s all in good fun. So the introduction of an assassination subplot feels a little off. However with that said, this strange plot inclusion does lead to two of the funniest sequences in the entire film. First, during the umpteenth argument between the trio, Lydia’s secret lover is caught up amongst the physical altercation and almost killed in a scene that just about pushes the level of violence featured in a modern PG family film to its limits.
Next, in a sequence that is almost impossible to describe, The Stooges thinking that Lydia’s lover is their intended target, sneak into a hospital with intentions to finish the job. Sound morbid enough yet? It’s here that between being chased by Hospital security, the trio walk into the maternity ward where they discover a room full of newborn babies. So what’s the logical thing for them to do here? Have an old western style shootout using urinating babies of course. It’s a sequence that’s insultingly silly, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit I was in tears during it. Beyond these two highlights this episode is more of the same finger poking, head smacking action that we’ve already seen too much of. At approximately an hour in, the familiar routine of violence begins to already wear thin. But worst of all, the closing moments of this episode introduces elements from the lowest form of entertainment currently screening on TV; Jersey Shore.
Episode 3: No Moe Mister Nice Guy
As if the plot for The Three Stooges wasn’t already bad enough, this final act sees Moe join the cast of Jersey Shore, prompting a montage of comical violence inflicted upon the world’s least likeable assembly of talentless reality stars. It’s every bit as contrived as it sounds. Other than this jump the shark moment, very little of interest takes place during this final act. The Stooges proceed to inflict more repetitive violence upon each other, the terrible plot is wrapped up in a predictable fashion and everybody goes home happy. Oh but there is one memorable sequence that sees Curly nearly kill a dolphin with a peanut, a peanut which is eventually expelled only to hit a Lion in the testicles, causing it to tear Lydia’s lover apart who happens to be in close proximity. It’s a confusing scene that horrifies more than it amuses.
All in all, if you consider yourself a huge Three Stooges fan then there’s a good chance you might get a kick out of this faithful reboot. The performances are spot-on, the nature of the gags familiar and there are some genuine belly laughs to be had. But with that said the rinse and repeat pattern becomes incredibly tired after an hour and a half. The Three Stooges may have been tolerable and even enjoyable in short instalments, but a full-length film truly tests one’s patience. Plus while some of the gags hit home, there are dozens and dozens that fail miserably. Still with that said, this is a revival comedy that feels more aimed a younger audience unfamiliar with the original show rather than at cynical film reviewers. Worth a shot if you’re in a particularly silly mood.
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