The Three Stooges

Posted on April 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I believe it was the great philosopher Curly Joe who first said that you cannot step in the same stream twice.  And perhaps it was Shemp who said that you can’t go home again.  Okay, that was the great ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus and the early 20th century American author Thomas Wolfe, but even the least-loved late-era members of the of the literally knuckle-headed 1930’s-1950’s comedy trio The Three Stooges would know that whatever appeal they had could never be re-created.  Big time fans the Farrelly brothers came closer to the spirit of their slapstick idols with films like “There’s Something About Mary,” “Shallow Hal,” and “Stuck on You” than in this dead mackerel of an attempt to recreate a Moe, Larry, and Curly for the 21st century.  Stars Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry), and Chris Sasso (Curly) have clearly studied the moves of the head-bonking, eye-poking Stooges, but they have no chemistry, poor pacing, an unsteady sense of the Stooges’ appeal, and 80 years of history separating us from the Stooges’ setting.

The original Stooges, Moe and “Curly” Howard and Larry Fine, had years of knockabout experience in vaudeville to perfect their interactions and develop an understanding of their audience.  They are funny in the context of their time in their constant efforts to join the middle class and their constant creation of chaos wherever they go.  But in this film, they lazily borrow the premise of “The Blues Brothers” (they have to raise money to keep the orphanage that has been their home since they were abandoned there as infants decades ago) and become entangled in a murder plot and “Jersey Shore.”  Is this funny?  Soitenly not.

The expected slapstick happens, but it is pretty joyless and some of the material crosses a line the Stooges would never have considered.  Larry David plays a nun named Sister Mary Mengele, surely a rather arcane reference within the context of this movie and meaner and more provocative than anything in the world of the original Three Stooges.  I perked up when I saw them enter a hospital, hoping for a “Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine” reference, but instead there was an extended scene with Moe and Curly, dressed as nurses, aiming naked baby boys at each other to get faces full of pee.  “You must be French,” Curly says to one.  “That’s a lot of oui-oui.”  A child becomes critically ill and it is supposed to be funny when for a moment it appears that she has died.  Adoptive families and their friends will be disturbed by a scene where kids are lined up at the orphanage in front of prospective parents and are told “no wonder your parents didn’t want you.”  And whose idea was it that the Stooges should become involved in a murder for hire plot as a gorgeous wife (Sofia Vergara) plots to kill her wealthy husband?  Or to have Moe go on “Jersey Shore?”  Or a Bob Dylan song?  Or a close-up of a lion’s testicles?  Or, when a character shoots a gun, the line, “I thought you were a Democrat!”  Why, I oughta……

This movie is proof positive that the Stooges were three of a kind (okay, five if you count Shemp and Curly Joe — we will not speak of Joe Besser), and, definitively inimitable.

Parents should know that this film includes constant comic violence including head-slamming and eye-poking (directors come on screen at the end to warn children not to attempt the stunts at home), some crude humor including language and graphic, gross-out potty jokes, murder for hire, scary lion,and insensitive and deliberately offensive material about nuns and adoption

Family discussion:  How does this version hold up to the The Three Stooges movies of the 1930’s-50’s?  What are the biggest differences?

If you like this, try: the original The Three Stooges short films and visit the Stooges Museum, the Stoogeum

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Comedy Remake

10 Replies to “The Three Stooges”

  1. i find it outrageously anti-semitic because the Stooges were quintessential yiddish speaking Jews not Catholics. who wrote the screenplay Mel Gibson? Is it possible the Farrelley didn’t notice the Yiddishisns and Jewish/WASP kulturkamph of the real Stooges?

    1. Abe, your use of the term kulturkamph made my day. I do not consider the movie anti-Semitic, just awful. The Stooges were Jewish and there was a lot of Yiddish humor in their movies, but they did not play Jewish characters. And there is nothing Catholic about the nuns in this movie, one of whom is played by a man and carries the name of a Nazi war criminal and another who wears a bikini.

  2. they did not play Jewish characters????
    In You Nazty Spy, they great the industrialists with “Shalom Aleichem”. When Moe impersonates Hitler he speaks Yiddish.Mattie Herring? Blintzes. Attacking Yom Kippurs? When Larry played a Chinaman he spoke to the cop in Yiddish. Granted these may have been shibboleths that may go over the head of a gentile viewer, but were inside joked to the Jewish viewer. They played quintessential Jewish characters .

    1. Fair point, Abe. I did say they used a lot of Yiddish humor, and I agree it was code for those who understand mamaloshen. But what I meant was that they were not playing characters identified as Jewish in the storylines so that goyim would recognize them.

  3. so , do you think the Farralleys intentionally deracinated the Stooges, or the Jewishness of the Stooges went over their kops?

  4. u Know, you’re just an idiot. The theater was packed, and everyone Was Laughing their heads off at 3 stooges. My wife and i thought it’s The Funniest movie This Year. They channeled the stooges perfectly, and scored….awesome movie.

    1. Jack, I’m always glad to hear from someone who sees more in a movie than I do, but a tip for the future: insult is not argument. When you begin that way, it just suggests that the only people who find this movie funny are those who are rude and disrespectful. You are always an ambassador for your point of view and you don’t do the Stooges or the movie (or your wife) any favors by associating them with this kind of behavior.

      Craig, I enjoyed your comment very much and I am happy that the film delivered what you were hoping for.

      John H., that’s just the kind of guidance I was hoping to provide. Many thanks.

  5. You give it a “D”? Must respectively disagree. A lot of your comments are spot on, but as a fan of the Stooges for 5 decades, I believe you miss the overall point. I think the Farrelly’s did a good job in “retelling” vs reinventing them. I thought the casting of the 3 was great, all of them obviously studied hard & IMHO pulled it off quite well. I agree some of the material went a bit far but considering our 21st century culture it seems unavoidable. Also, I think it’s important to note the original Stooges were not aimed at being children’s entertainment, at least not exclusively, like it is considered to be now. Sadly, it would seem most of today’s adults are too sophisticated to be entertained by this sort of slapstick. Or is it just as a society we’ve become so crass? No, you can’t improve or even come close to duplicating the original group. They were the perfect guys in the perfect time era. It is what it is. But I think this effort was a long overdue attempt to pay homage to some of the greatest physical comedians of all time, and I for one am, by in large, satisfied with the effort.

  6. Thanks for your review. I sensed that I would have been disappointed to go to this and find the ‘sexy nun’ and language. You’d think that the slap stick violence would be enough to get the PG rating? Now I know the dancer in “Disorder in the Court” is just about as racy, but for the most part the original 3 stooges are something I shared with my grade school children without any reservations.

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