CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE THREE STOOGES (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(The Scene: a fancy party at an elaborately rich mansion. The guests are all dressed elegantly, and the décor is high society. MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES enter the room, and they are dressed casually. They are stopped by a BUTLER.)
BUTLER: Are you the exterminators?
LS (pulls out a bloodied machete): Hell, yeah! Who do you want exterminated?
MA (shakes his head): No, no, we’re not the exterminators. We’re actually here to review a movie. (to LS) Put that thing away.
BUTLER: This is a black tie affair.
MA: I suppose we could do the review from outside.
LS: Or, I suppose you could make an exception. (points machete towards Butler’s throat.)
BUTLER: This is highly irregular.
LS: More importantly, it’s damned sharp!
(BUTLER steps aside and allows MA & LS entrance to the party.)
LS: Oh boy! A buffet! Actually, you know, we have to stop doing these food gags.
MA: Are you worried about being typecast?
LS: No, I’m sick of being full all the time! Why don’t we just get a few drinks this time around?
MA: Suits me. (grabs two champagne glasses from a passing tray and hands one to LS). So, should we start today’s review?
MA: I knew one of us would have to sneak that in. Okay, today we’re reviewing the new movie THE THREE STOOGES (2012) based of course, on The Three Stooges shorts of yesteryear, starring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Howard, whose real name was Jerry Howard, and of course later on there was Shemp Howard, and Joe Besser, and Curly Joe De Rita.
LS: Did you really have to mention Curly Joe De Rita.
MA: Of course. He was in the Stooges’ full-length movies of the 1960s! Plus he’s a heck of a lot funnier than Joe Besser!
(JOE BESSER approaches them, dressed like a little boy in ill-fitting clothes)
BESSER: I’m not funny? What are you talking about? I’ll harm you!
(BESSER pinches MA on the arm)
BESSER: Ohh, you make me so mad.
(JOE BESSER runs away)
MA: As a lifelong Stooges fan, I have to admit, I was dreading this movie. I just wasn’t looking forward to seeing some of my favorite characters and material ruined in a modern day interpretation.
But my fears were unfounded, because this new THREE STOOGES movie isn’t a disaster at all. It’s actually pretty funny. The best gauge of a comedy is, is it funny and did I laugh a lot? Well, I laughed a ton, and it was funny. It’s soitantly not a perfect movie, far from it, but it’s better than I expected.
LS: I think I laughed twice. Are you sure we saw the same movie?
MA: You only laughed twice? What a grouch!
LS: Okay, maybe three times. Tops.
MA: THE THREE STOOGES is divided into three “shorts” segments, an homage to the original Three Stooges shorts. The first one gives us the origins of the Stooges, as they are deposited as babies on the doorstep of an orphanage. Since nobody will adopt them, they grow up as adults there. Actually, young Moe is almost adopted, but when he begs for Larry and Curly to be adopted with him, his new parents renege on the deal and adopt a cuter boy instead.
LS: I hated this first “short.” I hated early on when little kids pretended to be Moe, Larry and Curly. Little kids imitating the Stooges kind of sucks. I’m also a fan of Larry David, but his role here as Sister Mary-Mengele didn’t make me laugh once. In fact, I can pretty much say, that I didn’t laugh once during this first part of the movie.
MA: I didn’t particularly like the kids as Stooges either, but once the adult Stooges appear, I was laughing quite a lot. And you didn’t find Larry David funny? I guess you didn’t have to curb your enthusiasm, then!
LS: Nyuck nyuck.
MA: As adults, Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), Larry (Sean Hayes), and Curly (Will Sasso) live at the orphanage until one day it is announced that the orphanage will be shut down unless they can come up with a huge amount of money, so of course the boys decide it’s up to them to save the orphanage, so the children won’t be thrown out on the street.
LS: How suspenseful!
MA: Gag! I just have to interject here and say that by far the plot is the weakest part of the movie. More on that in a bit.
So, Moe, Larry, and Curly leave their sheltered life and enter the real world of 2012 where they attempt to raise money for the orphanage, and it’s this story that fills the next two “shorts” of the movie. Along the way, they inadvertently get involved in a plot where a wife and her lover hire them to murder her husband.
LS: Another plot that I kind of hated.
MA: Really, the plot of THE THREE STOOGES is unimportant. The best part of this movie is watching the Stooges in action, and this is where the movie succeeds. The Three Stooges scenes for the most part are hilarious.
MA: It didn’t take me long to accept these guys as the Three Stooges. They really got the Stooges shtick right. The slapstick still works, the wisecracks still work—some of them were laugh-out-loud funny—and their timing is dead on. Like James Bond, more than one actor has had success in the role, and so it’s not like I felt these guys were impersonating the original Stooges, but that they were capturing the essence of the roles and making them their own.
LS: You didn’t feel like these guys were impersonating the Stooges? You must have chowder for brains.
MA: No, and I’ll tell you why.
Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe was probably my favorite of the three. Sure, the script centers more around Moe than Larry and Curly, but Diamantopoulos makes Moe really funny and even a bit more likeable than Moe Howard. The movie and Diamantopoulos do a good job at showing that, in spite of the way he treats Larry and Curly, he really likes them. The three of them are like brothers.
LS: Awww, isn’t that sweet. Actually, Diamantopolous (by the time I finish saying his name, the movie is over) is the best thing in the movie. I thought his portrayal of Moe was dead on. And he definitely had the funniest lines/scenes. In fact, I kind of thought he was too good for this movie. Watching him interact with the morons on the show THE JERSEY SHORE was downright painful.
MA: Really? I thought those scenes were uproarious.
LS: Uproarious? Are you on the Farrelly Brothers’ payroll or something?
MA: Of course not. Moe does have some of the funniest bits in the movie, which I thought was cool, since how often can you say that about the original Moe?
LS: How about all the time?
MA: Really? You find Moe the funniest of the Stooges? Wow. I’ve always laughed more at Curly, Larry, and even Shemp. Not that I don’t like Moe, but I’ve always found the other Stooges funnier.
LS: Without Moe, you’ve got no Three Stooges. He’s the most essential stooge.
MA: The bit where Moe is on the reality TV show is priceless and was probably my favorite gag in the movie. Seeing him hit and poke the good-looking twenty-somethings on the TV show was even funnier than seeing him hit and poke Larry and Curly.
LS: Good-looking 20-somethings? You’re not going to tell me that you don’t know who the cast of THE JERSEY SHORE are, are you? Have you been living under a rock?
MA: I live in the boonies in New Hampshire. That’s close enough.
LS: And you’ve got to be kidding me, that whole segment just struck me as a commercial for the MTV “realtiy TV” show. Those idiots can’t act and weren’t funny. Diamantopolous was so good, and so outclassed the JERSEY SHORE cretins, that it was painful for me to watch. I have to admit, seeing Moe poke Snooki in the eyes was funny for a minute, until I realized that Snooki, a completely talentless imbecile, gets to appear in a major Hollywood movie—something that she hasn’t earned. The entire sequence just seemed like pandering to me.
MA: Sean Hayes was also very good as Larry. Larry’s always been the most underrated of the Stooges. Always in the shadow of Curly and Moe, Larry nonetheless was extremely funny. Hayes succeeds in keeping Larry funny, and I think he really nails what Larry Fine originally did with the character. Hayes, of course, played Jack on the hit TV show WILL AND GRACE, and he’s nearly unrecognizable here as Larry.
LS: I agree that Larry is underrated. And Hayes isn’t too bad in the role.
MA: Admittedly, since Curly has always been my favorite Stooge, I was most skeptical about how Will Sasso would be able to pull this off. It really didn’t take me long to warm up to Sasso as Curly, and ultimately, like Diamantopoulos and Hayes, Sasso does a terrific job. His Curly is very funny.
LS: I thought Hayes and Sasso were okay as Larry and Curly, but their roles seemed much more like imitating the originals. Diamantopolous actually gave Moe some depth, and I think his performance was far better than the other two, who were just mildly funny. Although Hayes’ performance had moments of brilliance. Sasso was just a likeable lug, but not once did I say “Hey, this guy makes a great Curly.”
And where in the hell was my favorite Stooge—Shemp? In the very first Three Stooges short, “Soup to Nuts” (back in 1930!) it was Moe, Larry and Shemp. Curly didn’t come in til a little bit later when Shemp went off on his own for a while (as most people know, Shemp came back later when Curly had a stroke in the 1940s). It would have been nice to at least see Shemp pop up briefly in one scene as a sign of respect.
MA: The most impressive thing about THE THREE STOOGES, is that these three actors do such a good job with the material. I really was convinced that they were the Three Stooges, and I didn’t find myself pining for the original three.
LS: I did! These guys are okay, but they can’t hold a candle to the originals!
But it’s not the guys playing the Stooges here that I had a big problem with. It was the lame-ass script. If they jettisoned the orphanage and the woman-trying-to-kill-her-husband crap, and came up with something that was actually funny, maybe I would have liked this movie better.
MA: Yeah, I agree with you there.
Of course, a lot of the credit here goes to directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly, because a huge reason why the Stooges shtick works in this movie is because they got the timing of the slapstick right and made good use of the overdramatic sound effects. Never have sledgehammers hitting people over the heads sounded better!
LS: Of course sledgehammers hitting people sounded better. In the ORIGINAL movies! Here it just seems second-rate.
MA: No, I disagree. The sound effects were great!
LS: They just used the same sound effects! How original is that?
I had poked fun earlier that Larry David was playing a nun, Sister Mary-Mengele, but I have to give credit where credit is due. I thought David was hilarious, and he’s almost as funny as the Stooges here. The rest of the cast is so-so.
LS: I hated David’s character. And you’re right, the rest of the cast is so-so.
(LARRY DAVID approached the guys, dressed as a nun)
DAVID: What do you mean you hated my character? What are you? Some kind of moron? She was funny!
LS: Not once did I believe it was a woman—even an ugly woman—and I didn’t laugh once at your lame attempts at slapstick. I’m shocked. You’re so funny on your HBO show CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, and yet you were so unfunny here.
DAVID: What are you talking about? Of course I was funny! And I was edgy, too. The character’s last name is friggin Mengele! I’m a Jew playing a character named after one of the most notorious Nazis of all time. That is EDGY!
LS: Most of the younger members of the audience probably didn’t even understand that joke.
DAVID: And what about the scenes where cute kids start singing and I tell them to shut up! THAT’S EDGY!
LS: About as edgy as a butter knife.
MA: Forget edgy. David’s just funny as an ugly loud-mouthed nun. It’s as simple as that.
LS: Moving on to the rest of the cast. I actually like Sofia Vergara (who most people will know as Gloria on the ABC series MODERN FAMILY), and I think she’s pretty hot. But her character here is kind of a waste of time. She really seemed to be going through the motions – it wasn’t like this role needed any real acting talent. And her storyline was just so boring. Jane Lynch from the show GLEE is also in this movie, as the Mother Superior, and I didn’t think her character was all that memorable. Did you notice how almost every actor in this movie is from a TV show? Whatever happened to movie stars? For that reason, the whole thing just seemed like a glorified TV-movie to me.
I wasn’t really impressed with anyone else in the movie either, except for the guys playing the Stooges.
MA: Is Jennifer Hudson a Stooges fan or something? She’s on hand, playing a nun, and it’s not much of a role. I thought this was an odd bit of casting.
LS: Are you asking me? How the hell should I know?
MA: It’s a rhetorical question. Man, this movie has made you hot under the collar.
(Steam escapes from LS’ collar.)
I thought the Stooges’ scenes were uproariously funny, even though most of them were based on things the original Stooges did, like making repairs, riding crazy vehicles, and impersonating doctors and nurses, but there were some new bits as well. The Stooges do battle with peeing babies, Moe goes on reality TV (the best!) and there’s a funny bit inside a car submerged under water.
But the problem is there’s not quite enough of the Stooges’ zaniness to make this movie a complete success, and one of the reasons for this is the film’s lame plot.
Sure, having the Stooges need to save an orphanage fits in with the spirit of the original Stooges, as they helped children sometimes, and it fits in with the PG rating— as it seems the filmmakers were trying to attract a younger audience—but it’s oh so lame. Not that I’m advocating an R-rated Stooges movie, but a sharper plot would have made this movie that much funnier. There are so many other Stooges plots the filmmakers could have chosen from: Stooges as exterminators, as spies, as plumbers. If the wraparound story had been stronger, I would have loved this movie. Saving the kiddos just didn’t work for me.
LS: An R-rated STOOGES? I dunno, I think I would have liked that better.
In the audience I saw this with, the loudest laughs came from kids. This movie felt like it was aimed more at kids than adults. Which is fine – if it’s going to have any success as a franchise, it has to grab onto a new generation of fans – but as an old-time hardcore Stooges fan, I felt like this movie was a neutered version of the originals. The thing I always liked about the original Stooges was that they did have an edge. They were mean at times, and violent! This movie soft-pedals that and makes it nice and safe.
In comparison, the new THREE STOOGES seems too much like a kiddie movie. Screw that!
The thing is, there are other directors who could have done a lot better job with this concept. Sam Raimi comes instantly to mind. Raimi grew up making movies on a Super 8 camera that were homages to the Stooges with his pals Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert when they were kids. Raimi even made a movie that was filmed in a style reminiscent of the Stooges called CRIMEWAVE (1985) that more people should check out (CRIMEWAVE was also written by Raimi and the Coen Brothers!). Raimi would have done something really cool with these new Stooges. But the Farrelly Brothers just drop the ball here. They’ve given us the three eunuchs.
MA: I disagree. I thought this interpretation was just fine.
One thing the orphanage storyline did do was it kept the Stooges sheltered and made it believable for them to be out of place once they entered today’s world.
LS: Who cares?
MA: In spite of the PG rating, there were very few children in the theater when I saw this movie. The audience was comprised of mostly older folks. It was crowded, and it was also an extremely enthusiastic audience, with lots of laughter and even applause!
LS: You must have gone to a later showing. I went to a matinee and there was a good mix of young and old people, with kids doing most of the laughing. There was some applause at the end of my screening too, and I felt like doing a “Sister Mengele” bit and yelling at them to shut up.
MA: Like the movie itself, the screenplay by Mike Cerrone, and Bobby and Peter Farrelly is fun but uneven. The best parts are when the Stooges are being zany- repairing a bell tower on top of a church, fleeing security guards in a hospital, crashing a rich party. The worst parts are when the movie gets stuck having to move its lame plot forward.
LS: You’re going pretty easy on these guys. I thought the script was awful, and pretty much ruins the entire concept.
MA: I’m going back to what I said at the outset, that I laughed a lot. They must have done something right, in spite of the weak story.
LS: I am not a big fan of the Farrelly Brothers. I thought they made one great movie, and that was KINGPIN back in 1996. That was smart and funny. I haven’t been all that impressed with them since. Their biggest film was probably THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1998), which I thought was okay, but really overrated. And their output has been pretty uneven since. I’m just not a big fan of theirs, and THE THREE STOOGES isn’t going to change that.
MA: Well, THE THREE STOOGES was much better than I expected, and it’s good for quite a few laughs, so it’s soitantly worth checking out. I give it two and a half knives.
LS: Y’know, I’d heard that some critics were giving this movie good reviews, and I went into the theater expecting to be won over by it. I really, really wanted this new version of THE THREE STOOGES to be good. I hoped against hope that it wouldn’t be as horrible as the trailers led me to believe.
But you know what? It didn’t win me over. It was horrible. I thought the Stooges themselves were okay. Moe kicks ass. The other two aren’t as good, but they’re tolerable. But every other aspect of this movie just turned me off. I have to admit, I kind of hated this movie. I give it one knife!
MA: Well, too bad for you. It’s funny and despite its weak plot it’ll make you laugh. (looks at LS) Well, not you.
LS: You’re damn right, not me. I’m so pissed off at this movie right now, I have to use this machete! Where’s Larry David?
MA: Whoa! Let’s not attack any celebrities!
LS: Who said anything about attacking him? I’m just going to demonstrate with this sharp instrument what it really means to have an edge.
MA: Oh, well, if that’s all. Actually, how do you intend to demonstrate that? (LS is suddenly gone.) Where did he go?
(LS with the machete high over his head begins chasing guests around the party who flee in terror.)
MA: There you have it, folks: our demonstration of edgy comedy. Sir? You might not want to flip him off. (There is a shriek.) Oh my. I hope he didn’t need that finger.
Until next time, so long for now.
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives THE THREE STOOGES ~ two and a half knives!
LL Soares gives THE THREE STOOGES ~one and a half knives.