MOVIE REVIEW: The Three Stooges
Listen up, you knuckleheads! "The Three Stooges" is good fun -- if you're into that sort of thing.
Let me start this review by admitting a bias: I am the sort of person who finds The Three Stooges funny. I say that unapologetically, with pride. Ever since I was a kid, Larry, Moe and Curly could always make me laugh -- although I wasn't a huge fan of Shemp, and the less said about Joe Besser, the better.
I am aware, however, that there is another kind of person out there: the kind of person who finds The Three Stooges moronic, puerile and unfunny. Nothing wrong with that; everyone's sense of humor is different. Yes, a lot of it has to do with gender ("Women don't find the Stooges funny" is one gender stereotype that does tend to have some truth to it), but I think a lot of it also has to do with age of exposure -- the Stooges, like religion, stick with you best if you're brought up with them from childhood. Some of us were, and we're lifelong devotees. Some weren't, and quite frankly can't see what the fuss is all about.
Be forewarned: If you are in the latter camp, you will not enjoy The Three Stooges, the new movie that resurrects the dimwitted Depression-era trio and plops them down into the 21st Century.
If, however, you're like me and think the original Stooges' almost 200 short films were the pinnacles of comedic perfection, I am pleased to say that this movie is for you.
The Three Stooges, directed by the Farrelly Brothers (There's Something About Mary, Kingpin), wisely doesn't tamper with the formula perfected nearly 80 years ago by Moses and Jerome Horwitz and Louis Feinberg, better known as Moe, Curly and Larry, respectively. The movie's plot is simplicity itself, and would have made a good 20 minute short for the original Stooges: An orphanage run by saintly nuns is about to be foreclosed on, and the boys have to raise the money to save it.
That's it. The plot, like the plot of the best Stooges shorts, is merely a line to hang the jokes on, and this one serves the purpose as well as any. You don't watch the Stooges for depth, after all -- you watch the Stooges to see a grown man take a chainsaw to the cranium and live to fight another day.
And boy, can these new Stooges take the abuse. Whatever its shortcomings, this movie is blessed with absolutely inspired lead casting. The new Stooges inhabit their roles so effortlessly and completely that you soon forget that they are new actors. They're simply Larry, Moe and Curly. It's an eerie feat of impersonation by all three.
Chris Diamantopoulos, as Moe, is pitch-perfect, his jaw thrust forward in a perpetual scowl, his voice -- even in moments of calm -- always at the edge of a snarl. Sean Hayes, best known for his work on TV's Will and Grace, is perhaps more impressive as Larry -- after all, everyone has a Moe or Curly impression, but how many people can do a killer Larry Fine? And MadTV's Will Sasso is a revalation as Curly. Sasso obviously realized going in that there was a lot more art to Curly Howard's performance than meets the eye; for a tubby human punching bag, Howard had a surprising physical grace. Sasso nails not only Curly's signature high-pitched voice, but every nuance of the greatest Stooge's physical presence, from his machine-gun finger snaps to his surprisingly light-footed running gait.
Refreshingly, although the movie takes place in the present, the Stooges themselves remain pleasant anachronisms, down to Moe's Depression-era tough-guy patter. There's no attempt to make the Stooges hip, no "gritty reboot" psychoanalyzing. When Moe slaps Curly, it's not because he's directing his inner child's rage or displacing his Daddy issues or some such; it's simply because Curly by-God needed slapping.
In short, this is a movie where you go in, turn your brain off, and just soak in the moronic delight of purely physical comedy, essayed with gusto by actors who were obviously enjoying their work. If you don't already love the Stooges, it's a movie to skip. If you do, well, what're you waiting around for, you knucklehead? Get movin'!
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