Movie review: The Three Stooges

The Farrelly Brothers’ new film is a fabulous homage to the masters of slapstick themselves, Moe, Larry and Curly. But can contemporary actors really satisfy stalwart Stooge fans? Soitainly!

The Three StoogesThe original Three Stooges started as a live vaudeville act in the 1920s called “Ted Healy and his Southern Gentlemen.” The act evolved, finally getting the attention of MGM, then Columbia Pictures, who signed them to do comedy shorts, which became wildly popular. There’s little doubt that directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly (There’s Something About Mary) grew up not only watching The Three Stooges on TV, but imitating their physical hijinks on each other, ultimately developing their strong sense of physical comedy. Their new film The Three Stooges is as close to a comedic love poem to Larry Fine, Moe and Curly Howard as I can imagine.

Given the near-balletic choreography of the exaggerated violence in the physical comedy, casting the Stooges was critical. But Sean Hayes as Larry, Will Sasso as Curly and Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe succeed as a tight comedic trio, dancing their way through 92 minutes of pain-inflicting shenanigans.

The film starts at an orphanage where Mother Superior, played by the delightful Jane Lynch, discovers three babes abandoned on the doorstep. Getting to see the Stooges as children was highly amusing and I have to give mad props to the talented child-actors Lance Chantiles-Wertz, Skyler Gisondo and Robert Capron who play them. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of these tykes in the future. But the story really gets going when the orphanage is threatened with closure unless the adult Stooges can raise the $800,000 to save it. The Stooges then meet the scheming Lydia, played by Sofia Vergara, who hires them as hit men!

The most clever part of the story is when Moe gets cast in a current hit reality show. Which one? Well, the show where its stars constantly fall on their rears, occasionally their face, give punches, take punches, run into walls or police cars and get plenty of comedic gold out of urinating on camera — The Jersey Shore, of course! The less-tanned, less-muscled Dyna-Moe even manages to give Snooki an ebullient eye-poke.

The very fast-pacing of The Three Stooges serves the comedy well, as does using the music from the original short films. Told in three vignettes, the movie is light on story, and heavy on puns and slapstick. The slapstick is so faithful to the violent nature of the original Stooges, the Farrelly brothers give a PSA at the end of the film revealing that each sledgehammer, knife and shovel used to pound the actors was made of rubber. Hopefully, this will prevent kids in the audience from imitating these pranks at home using the real thing.

Bottom line:  If you’re a fan of the original Three Stooges and love physical comedy, you’ll laugh your way though this solidly funny film. Not a fan? Then send your husband and kids to the theater and enjoy some time at the spa, as the cheeky promo ad for the movie suggests. Either way, it’s a win-win!

Photo credit: Fox Studios