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A BRIEF HISTORY (because we love the Stooges): Moses "Moe" Howard, brother Samuel "Shemp" Howard and Moe's best buddy Larry Fine were the original Stooges, supporting a comedian named Ted Healy on the vaudeville stages of the 1920s. When the act made the jump to movies, Jerome "Curly" Howard stepped into brother Shemp's shoes and Healy was legally exorcised. Moe, Larry and Curly are the Three Stooges to all the kidlets of Cranky's generation -- after school teevee shows hosted by "Officer" Joe Bolton on New York's WPIX. Larry and Moe were the core. Shemp rejoined Moe and Larry after brother Curly suffered a stroke in 1946. Later, actors Joe Besser and Joe DeRita would later fill Shemp/Curly's place in the trio. While we acknowledge the history, we won't compare the new film to the old work. That wouldn't be fair to anyone.
IN SHORT: Lots of slaps and one big fart joke. Yeah, it's all good . . .[Rated PG for slapstick action violence, some rude and suggestive humor including language. 88 minutes]
All you need know is that the Stooges' comedy was the lowest of the low-brow slapstick kind; leader Moe would slap (you) with an open hand as sure as he would slap (you) with a stick, if he had one. Now understand our position: Hitting people is not funny. Hitting people when accompanied by wacky sound effects, is. It's just so.
That;s probably training from daily plays on local television back when there were still children's shows in the late afternoon. Those of us from that generation have our own kids now and, as long as responsible parents make sure their kids know that what they're seeing on TV isn't real -- you know what we mean --- it shouldn't take much oversight to ensure that the little ones don't slap each other silly. (Of course that didn't stop some group of mothers from leading a ban the Stooges movement at one point. . . ).
The story here begins with a duffle bag stuffed with boys dumped on the doorstep of the Sisters of Mercy Orphanage (founded 1934), out in one of the great Nowheres-ville USA places out in, uh, nowheres-ville. There, under the care of Mother Superior (Jane Lynch) and her right hand man (sic) Sister Mary-Mengele (Larry David) the three young lads -- Larry (Sean Hayes), Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos) and Curly (Will Sasso) -- are raised to be fine men. They repay the nuns' kindness by working as handymen at the orphanage.
The problem is they're not so handy. The three brothers are full of heart and dim of wit. Moe is the Leader. Curly has the physical mass to break things easily. Larry, to be kind, can't put 2+2 together because he probably can't tell the difference between numbers and metaphors. Put the three together and things get broken. Not on purpose -- except for Moe slapping his brothers silly -- but broken nonetheless.
The three are as devoted to their residence as they are dim of wit. When comes the day that the local church Monsignor (Brian Doyle Murray) comes to inform the nuns that there is no money left to fund the orphanage, the boys step up and promise to raise the necessary cash -- $830,000 of it -- in the thirty days that remain to the Sisters.
Said boys are Toast. The nuns know it. But out in the real world, the lovely Lydia (Sofía Vergara) engages the dim bulbs in a plan to mercifully "relieve her dying husband of his pain and suffering," for which she will pay the $830,000. Lydia, of course, is a lying scheming b-word whose legal hubby is filthy rich and off-screen for most of the picture. The Stooges wrongly assume that Lydia's "friend" Mac (Craig Bierko) is the husband to be snuffed and, well, stuff happens and none of it brings in the cash.
The stress of trying to save the orphanage becomes too great, and the brothers split. Larry and Curly do the best they can to raise money to save the orphanage but it is Moe that finds fame and fortune . . . and we're not going to say how. Telling anything more will spoil the coming surprises, most of involve a character played by Stephen Collins and all of which you'll have figured out by the time they're sprung.
The Farrelly's have built their film in three episodes, certainly a nod to the origins of the characters but also a handy way of getting story elements introduced quickly while setting up as much mayhem as possible. Ah, we think too much. Not so much that we don't appreciate the Farrelly Brothers' photographic attention to the curves of co-star Sofía Vergara . . . which we absolutely do . . . more important, the Brothers deliver a finished product that sounds like a Three Stooges movie. Sasso, Diamantopoulos and Hayes sound like the Howard brothers and pal Fine. The makeup job replicates the look of the characters perfectly. It would be like stepping back in time (that is is the film weren't set in the modern day and shot in color... <g>)
The Three Stooges were always low-brow slapstick. The kind of comedy any post-toddler kidlet loves -- watching grown ups hit each other, when the li'l viewer has no concept of pain, will make any little boy giggle. The modern take is still "violent". It is still funny. It is, slap for slap, one big fart joke of a movie. We had a pretty good time.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Three Stooges, he would have paid . . .
which is the rating we give to movies that don't deliver anything more than you could get on your teevee screen. The Farrelly Brothers could easily have dropped the PG-13 Stooges into an FB-friendly R rated world
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