Bryan Connolly is a life-long Stoogemaniac, and so we turned to him to write a review of The Three Stooges. At the time we assigned him the review I sort of assumed I wouldn't see the movie, and it would be nice to have someone writing about it from a place of respect and knowledge, and not just tearing the film apart. Even if Bryan didn't like the movie it would be for the right reasons, not because of a disconnect with Stooge humor.
I ended up seeing the movie as well, and I actually liked it a lot. So did Bryan. I'm going to throw in my thoughts after his.
What does it mean to be a Stoogemaniac? Are you into Curly and Shemp? How about Joe Besser? Could you accept three new fellas as the stooges? This last question has plagued me for the last few months as I was gearing up to see the new film by the Farrelly Brothers. I told myself: I have no problem with Curly Joe doing a toned down Curly, so maybe it’ll be fine. I was still nervous entering the theater yesterday. Once the movie began I was already laughing hard and continued to do so until the end credits finished. I saw it with a theater full of children. They also loved it.
It is the funniest movie I have seen in a really long time. Slapstick has been sadly absent from comedies for more than a decade. To see grown men fall down again is something to stand up and cheer about. Modern comedies have become long films full of director’s friends riffing and shrugging. I hate them. This film is ninety minutes long and has some truly great comedy bits.
My favorite scene in the film has the stooges doing an elaborate series of slaps, tumbles, and pokes all on a stage. It is very similar to those moments of violence and comedy in the Sammo Hung or Jackie Chan comedies of the eighties. The bit goes on for a few minutes. The actors perform it beautifully. A ballet of knuckleheads. Here is a Hollywood film in 2012 that features multiple vaudeville routines. That is an amazing thing.
The actors are brilliant. I want to first draw attention to the boy who plays the young Curly at the beginning of the film. His name is Robert Capron. He is great as Rowley in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid films. There is something so unbelievably likable and funny about him. I feel that he may be the funniest actor under twenty working today. All three of the kids who play the young stooges are so good at it that I would love to see a whole movie just about them.
Larry David plays a grouchy nun? What? Yes, THAT Larry David. You can tell he is having lots of fun hamming it up. He makes a great foil for the three leads. Will Sasso plays Curly. I remember liking him from Mad TV back in the day. He gives his performance a nice little lovable edge. Sean Hayes of Will and Grace is a perfect Larry. This is a hard character to pull off. Larry is subtler than the other two, but Hayes does it perfectly. A few years back he was Jerry Lewis in a TV biopic. What a lucky guy to be allowed to do both Jer and Larry Fine.
The one that stands out though is Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe. His performance is really amazing. Other actors would have just acted mean with a bowl cut. There is something absolutely incredible about his Moe. He plays it much more complex than I would have expected. Behind his frowns and jabs there is a quiet sadness that makes the character intensely sympathetic. Look for it in the above mentioned scene on the stage and in the part where Moe declines an invitation to stay with the folks who refused to adopt him as a child. Good stuff. Not to pull an Armond White or anything, but I really feel that Diamantopoulos should get an Oscar. Sadly that group hates comedies.
The film is great. The Farrellys have made their funniest movie in a long time. The non-stop gags are brilliant: Deer reaction shots, a field full of flopping salmon, Curly running into a door. The jokes can get strange and dirty (an epic pee battle, Benny Hill style boob jokes), but at least they’re funny.
Is this review too much of a love fest? I wanted to fight this movie when I first heard about it years ago. I have a Shemp tattoo. I love the stooges. I think about them constantly. But I hate most remakes and I hate people redoing things I like from my childhood (Transformers, G.I. Joe, etc). The fact is the Farrelly’s are true stoogemaniacs and they give them the respect they deserve. Their first film Dumb and Dumber is basically them doing stooge humor (right down to the haircuts) and they’ve been working towards this moment their entire careers. They’ve been trying to make this specific movie for over a decade now. They wouldn’t phone in a stooges film. I want this movie to do well. I want them to make more. What if a sequel was made with Michael Shannon as Shemp? Write a letter to Hollywood and demand this right now.
Bryan Connolly is the co-editor of Destroy All Movies: The Complete Guide to Punks on Film.
I have to agree with a lot of what Bryan says. After seeing the film I'm shocked at the negative reviews - what did people want from a Three Stooges movie, anyway? The Three Stooges were always lowbrow humor, gags predicated on the most base physical violence... but performed with an almost sublimely beautiful style. This film nails that perfectly. The Farrellys get slapstick, and they execute it in a classical way.
Yes, this movie is stupid. Yes, it often makes little 'logical' sense. Yes, it is a series of scenes in which grown men deliver patently unrealistic damage to one another. But that's The Stooges. It's part of what we love about them, their cartoonish goofiness. If you're a fan of the Stooges I don't know how you could seriously dislike this movie. And yes, it's a kid's film. Just like the Stooges shorts were largely aimed at kids.
I especially loved the goofy ways the film nods to the original shorts. Every time the Stooges fall off a building or are flung a great distance, they're obviously dummies. The movie is split into three 'episodes,' and the episode titles are spot on. The set pieces all feel like classic Stooge sets ups - amok in a hospital, running wild at a fancy party, getting into trouble at the zoo.
My biggest fear walking in, like Bryan, was that this would be soulless mimicry. But the actors are incredible in the roles, embodying the characters. I'm glad Bryan agrees about Diamantopoulos, whose Moe is truly extraordinary. He really does get beyond the sociopathic anger, and like the rest of the cast he brings something subtly human to the character. Which is really saying something in a Stooges movie.
It's not a great work of art, but it's damn funny. It's also sometimes shockingly dark. There is some toilet humor, but I imagine the Stooges would have been farting up a storm in the original shorts if they could have gotten away with it. Classiness wasn't their biggest concern - funniness was. The Farrellys get the funniness.
So if you're a Stooge fan, go see the movie. If you like crude, silly slapstick, go see the movie. If you have a stick up your ass, go see Titanic.