Three Stooges Movie Makes Fans and Non-fans Laugh! April 16, 2012 – Posted in: A Picture's Worth, Blog, Featured Columns

Contents ©2012 Mike Pascale  (All art/photos © their respective owners.)

 

Like most guys my age, I’ve been a Three Stooges fan since I was a little kid. I have a half dozen of their books, including the biographies of Curly and Larry as well as Moe’s autobiography (highly recommended).  I have very fond memories of watching them on TV with my Dad, both of us laughing hysterically at the physical comedy and goofy wordplay. So much so, that, when I got home from my father’s funeral when I was 15, I went down to his basement studio and watched them on the old black-and-white TV. Even with tears in my eyes, those three (actually six) knuckleheads always made me smile and laugh, through good times and bad.

So when I first heard about the movie in the works, I was initially concerned if not filled with dread. (Early reports had Sean Penn, Benecio Del Toro and Jim Carrey starring.) I figured it would be full of needless “updating” and “relevance” for the youth crowd, full of tasteless bodily function gags, forced 21st century references, vulgar sex jokes, cussing, toned-down slapstick, and so on, none of which are what The Boys were about. They didn’t get to be the most prolific, longest-lasting comedy team in history (40 years in film, 150+ shorts, a dozen features) by pandering or being dated.

 

Will Sasso, Chris Diamantopoulos and Sean Hayes capture history’s most popular comedy team.

 

But last year, when attending the Licensing Expo in Vegas, I came across and chatted with the fine folks at C3 Entertainment (current owners/licensors of the characters/trademarks). They were very upbeat about the film, informing me of their full involvement (as well a few of the heirs), and assuring me that they planned to do justice and respect to the originals. I felt better. When I saw the photos of the actors in full makeup, it seemed encouraging. Will Sasso, from MAD TV, makes an uncanny Curly. I didn’t recognize Sean Hayes (Jack from WILL AND GRACE), and Chris Diamantopoulos was the most Moe-looking since Moe himself.

So, with both enthusiasm and slight trepidation, my wife and I went see the film over the weekend.

And, I’m happy to say, we enjoyed it!

Two degrees of separation: In a rare brush with greatness, Emil Sitka came to my old local comic shop about 20 years ago, and I managed to get an autograph. (Have a pic with him too, but sadly it’s buried in a box somewhere.) Emil, aka “The 4th Stooge”, played uncles, fathers, grandfathers, professors, and my favorite, the preacher in BRIDELESS GROOM (1947) where he first ad-libbed his trademark line. More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emil_Sitka#.22Hold_hands.2C_you_lovebirds.22)

 

My wife isn’t even a fan, and she thought it was a ton of fun. (A grandmother seated behind us was cackling through the whole thing. So perhaps this picture seems to cross that gender barrier of previous Stooges efforts.) Critic Leonard Maltin said he didn’t laugh, but the audience with whom he saw it did. Frankly, I think you’d have to have had your sense of humor surgically removed to not laugh at least a few times during this funny Farrelly brothers film. (Script by them with Mike Cirrone).

The slapstick was spot-on, including many of their classic routines as well as a few new inventions (a simultaneous triple-eye-poke!). The verbal gags and puns were both clever, funny and silly like the originals. (My favorite: Referring to Sofia Vergara’s legs, Moe says, “Nice getaway sticks!”) When it comes to puns, if you’re like me and think the worse the better, you’ll be pleased (look for the succession of lawyer office doors with the great titles, ala Dewey, Cheatem & Howe).

Speaking of the über-hot Sofia, straight guys will be happy to see her in low-cut, skin-tight dresses while everyone else will appreciate that she wasn’t above being dragged into the slapstick (including a lobster on the face and a hilarious horn-honk when her boyfriend steps on her ample bosom).

 

Plenty for everyone: Kate Upton and Sofia Vergara spice things up for the boys.

 

One thing to keep in mind: the actors are completely and unashamedly imitating–if not downright channelling–the original trio. The facial expressions are perfect, as are the voices–close your eyes and you may think you’re hearing “the boys” themselves. Even the child actors who play the Stooges as kids did a great job. These are not “interpretations” or “re-imaginings” like other classic characters that were ruined by Hollywood, but a faithful and sincere homage.

Yes, there’s some obligatory “updating”, such as having the cringe-worthy cast of The Jersey Shore appear as a plot device, but they’re actually used effectively. Normally I find them troglodytic  and repugnant but here they provide some genuine laughs at their own expense. The lone “iPhone” gag is hilarious (one I’ll be using whenever I can!) There were a few bathroom jokes (imagine a drawn-out fight with urinating babies) but otherwise it was pretty “clean” humor. No sex jokes or nudity. But plenty of the usual smack ‘em schtick! From Curly getting a chainsaw across the head to Moe using a cheese grater on a Jerseyite’s hand to the three of them bouncing like WWE wrestlers on a priest, there’s more deliciously violent physical comedy in this flick than any Kevin James or Adam Sandler pic. And that’s a good thing for any Stooge fan. (I even laughed at the obligatory “Kids don’t do this at home” warning from actors playing Bobby and Peter Farrelly at the end).

 

Baby stooges! Adorable and hilarious at the same time. (Gee, you think baby Moe is wearing a wig?)

 

Big bonuses were Larry David (CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, SIENFELD), Jane Lynch (GLEE) and Jennifer Hudson (DREAM GIRLS, AMERICAN IDOL) all as nuns at the Stooges’ orphanage, and Brian Doyle-Murray (Bill Murray’s brother) as the aforentioned battered monsignor. If you stay for the credits, you’ll be treated to a video of the boys dancing and singing to popular tunes.

The only thing missing? No pie fight! Hopefully that’s slated for the sequel. And though I never thought I’d say it, I hope there are many more. Turn off your maturity and enjoy the film.

What was your impression of the movie or the original shorts? Who’s your favorite Stooge? Tell me below.

 

Thanks,

Mike

 

 

P.S.: If you’d like a commission of the boys, or see you and your pals as the Stooges, or any other characters, just ask Craig here!

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