The Three Stooges (2012)
I had mixed feelings about whether The Three Stooges could be successfully re-imagined and revitalised for a modern audience. When the first trailer was released it seemed to highlight the major differences between the old school slapstick humour of the forties with the worldly adult style of present comedy movies. However, as more information came out regarding the production and it became clear that the Farrelly Brothers are consummate fans of the source material, I began to revise my expectations. After finally having caught up with the movie, six years after its theatrical release, I am afraid all my initial fears have proven true and that The Three Stooges falls into all the traps I anticipated it would. That is not to say that the film is not without merits, but overall it fails to deliver in a manner that pleases all parties.
First off let me make it clear that the casting of Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos as Larry, Curly and Moe is spot on and their performances are exceptional. They have successfully captured the style, idiom and physical technique of the original trio and are very funny in themselves. I cannot fault their work. However, the story that the actors have to hang their performance on, is weak, poorly paced and littered with asides that don't work. The depiction of the Catholic Church, nuns and orphanages is lazy and tired. To cater to contemporary tastes there is a degree of cruder material and sexual under current to a lot of the humour. The problem is that it seems out of place and doesn't fit well into the narrative. Therefore, there is a tonal tug of war between slapstick gags that you expect from this franchise and the earthier humour you find in other Farrelly Brothers movies.
I love comedian Larry David, but his character Sister Mary-Mengele has little to do and nowhere to go. Plus naming a nun after a Nazi war criminal really isn't exactly going to have the target audience rolling in the aisles is it? In fact, a lot of the humour centred around the antagonists and support characters seems out of place in a movie that is marketed heavily towards kids. For example, I laughed a lot at Larry (Sean Hayes) giving a dolphin a Heimlich Manoeuvre, but when the offending peanut is then shot out of its blow hole and into a Lion’s testicles, it become an embellishment of a very different nature. The final act which involves Moe appearing on a reality TV show fails as a concept. I can see why it was used as a plot device to try and bridge the cultural divides between prospective audience members, but it just doesn’t work.
The Three Stooges also has another major obstacle to overcome in so far as we now live in extremely litigious times, in a culture dominated by health and safety. The movie ends with a coda in which the directors, the Farrelly Brothers played by male models, explain that all of the Stooges physical hijinks are stunts and should not be imitated. It really does further derail an already flawed production. In the UK, the BBFC still expressed concern over some of the slapstick violence and as a result the distributors elected to re-edit the movie and remove some of the problematic scenes so they could secure a lower rating for theatrical release. The Blu-ray release for the United Kingdom is uncut, however.
The box office taking for The Three Stooges were not bad. The movie recouped its production costs and turned a profit. Whether this means we will see a second movie, I do not know for sure. However, because the lead actors are so good, I would not actually mind giving them a second chance, as long as a greater effort was placed on finding a suitable comedy vehicle for them. Therefore, if you do decide to watch The Three Stooges, then do curb your expectations and focus on the central performances. Try to tune out the wider comedy as it is very poor and at odds with central theme. Then you may then be rewarded with an enjoyable tribute act to Larry, Curly and Moe. However, a sequel will certainly need to be more than just a homage.