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In Praise Of Stupid Laughs. The Three Stooges, Reviewed.

Illustration for article titled In Praise Of Stupid Laughs. emThe Three Stooges/em, Reviewed.

1. An old joke: "Why do women not like The Three Stooges? Because they're not funny." The appeal of The Three Stooges has always been inherently male, predominantly young male, specifically adolescent, glue-sniffing boy. Now, that's not to say that 10-year-olds the world over are obsessed with The Three Stooges; they're too busy hacking their mom's iPhones, pretending to like soccer, and downloading porn to have any idea who Moe, Larry, and Curly are. But The Three Stooges' primary appeal—their lone appeal, I'd argue—is to that eternal 10-year-old boy within all of us who absolutely cannot stop giggling when someone gets hit in the groin with a football. You know that famous Simpsons clip in which Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on all the rakes? That's smart-person humor; that's the ludicrousness of repetition, funny in an almost postmodern way. There is nothing postmodern about The Three Stooges. Stepping on the rake once is enough.

2. So, do you find The Three Stooges funny? If you do, you'll find the Farrelly brothers' The Three Stooges funny, and even if you don't, it's pretty difficult not to at least somewhat enjoy a movie that matter-of-factly casts Larry David as a strict, constantly injured nun at an orphanage. (Side note: David is consistently hilarious in this movie, and in on the joke, and honestly it's the most I've enjoyed him outside the Curb universe since he voiced Steinbrenner.) This has been the Farrelly brothers' passion project for almost two decades, and you can tell it: They love the Stooges so much they treat them with reverence you'd more expect from an adaptation of a beloved wonky sci-fi novel, or a young adult novel, or a biopic of Lincoln. They desperately want you to worship The Three Stooges as much as they do. You won't quite get there—how could you?—but you'll admire the effort.

3. Originally, the Farrellys had all sorts of crazy ambitions for the actors to play the Stooges—ranging from Sean Penn to Mel Gibson to, insanely, Benicio Del Toro—but once that all faded away, they ended up with probably the perfect three guys: Will Sasso as Curly, Sean Hayes as Larry, and, especially, Chris Diamantopoulos, whom I'll always know as the poor doomed earnest Jason Barone of Barone Sanitation on The Sopranos and who comes closest out of the three to channeling the spirit of the original character. The Farrellys bring the Stooges to the modern-day world, where they attempt to raise nearly $1 million to save their orphanage through a series of poorly conceived schemes. Ultimately, a cheating couple that wants the boys to murder the wife's wealthy husband—not worth explaining, except to say that the wife is played by Sofia Vergara—allows the movie to have a plot, which I suppose it had to have, lest the camera just sit there and not move.


4. I'll confess that I don't always find the Stooges' sledgehammer-to-face, "nyuk-nyuk-nyuk!" physical comedy all that funny, though it's nice seeing a comedy routine involving men in the year 2012 that doesn't involve gay panic, some sort of dismemberment, or a monkey. (I might still be reeling from the Hangover sequel, frankly.) What I do find funny is the cheerful idiocy of the Stooges, and that, fortunately, is right in the Farrelly brothers' strike zone. There are all sorts of great dumb-dumb gags in The Three Stooges that owe as much to the old Zucker-Abrams-Zucker comedies as they do to the Stooges themselves. (My favorite is the boys' fundraising attempt of farming, raising "free range fish." You sort of have to see it.) The Farrelly brothers have devoted their careers to documenting the idiotic things that stupid men do. This isn't their best movie—that'll always be Kingpin—but in that regard, in coming up with inventive ways for morons to do moronic things, it might be their masterwork.

5. Not everything works, obviously, and I'll admit to not doing backflips about praising a film that features extended cameos from the cast of Jersey Shore. (Though if you have to see Snooki in a movie, there are worse ways to do it than to see her poked repeatedly in the eyes.) And The Three Stooges themselves are an acquired taste, to put it mildly. But I still gave myself over to the deep unhipness of it all: It's innocent and silly and brainless and, goddamn it, funny. This is not a dumb comedy done smartly; this is a dumb comedy done dumbly. That's no reason not to laugh. That's the best reason to, actually.

Grade: B

Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.

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