One of the worst parts of being a film critic would have to be the crushing realization that not too many people will listen to you regardless of how high your readership numbers are. Many cinephiles and film geeks just like to read the opinions of others or they somehow hope that their favourite writers will savagely rip a film a new asshole before just going to see it anyway. I know I don’t always listen to my closest friends and colleagues all of the time. There’s also those movies that some people want to see fail because culturally they just look stodgy and uncool without anyone ever bothering to give them a chance. Some movies just seem destined to be dead on arrival with some people.
Well, since so few of you listened to me earlier this year about The Devil Inside being a piece of crap despite a great trailer (HOW THE FUCK DID THAT GO WORLD? I’M NOT BITTER OR SAD ABOUT THAT AT ALL!), I sincerely hope that not all of you will scoff with indignity when I say that the Farrelly Brothers’ modern reworking of the Three Stooges shorts of their youth actually works. Did you like the Stooges growing up? Do you like slapstick comedy? If you could answer yes to either of those questions, The Three Stooges will hit the spot. If you don’t like those either of those things, you won’t like the movie. It’s almost as simple as that.
“BUT WHAT ABOUT THAT TRAILER WITH FUCKING SNOOKI IN IT ANDY?!?!?! OMGLOLZ. THIS MOVIEZ TOTAL FAILZORS.”
Let me be pretty upfront about this since I’ve already thrown most journalistic integrity to the wind in this review already through my liberal use of caps lock. That trailer sucks and does the worst possible job of selling this movie. Yes, Snooki does show up and there are several other pop culture references that die relatively quick and unfunny deaths. The movie isn’t perfect, but for about 85% of the film Peter and Bobby Farrelly stick to the tried and true Stooges formula of getting Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), Larry (Sean Hayes), and Curly (Will Sasso) into wacky misadventures and misunderstanding that sometimes involve people getting smashed in the face with sledgehammers, chainsaws, and strategically placed ironing boards. Its devotion to an old and pretty much dead artform is damned near admirable. The people who cut the trailer for the film seem to think that slapstick on its own can’t sell a film, despite nearly 25 years of America’s Funniest Home Videos to point to the contrary.
Divided into three connected parts designed to look like stand alone shorts, we follow the brothers from their days at an orphanage as kids and wayward adults where they make the lives of the nuns in residence (including Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson, and Larry David in drag) a living hell. After learning that the orphanage will close if the arbitrary sum of $830,000 isn’t raised within the next month, the boys head off to the city to find a get rich quick scheme. They’re approached by a woman (Sofia Vergara) and her lover (Craig Bierko) to kill the woman’s husband (Kirby Heyborne) for insurance money, with the expected comedic results one would probably get from hiring the three biggest idiots on the planet to carry out a hit.
Not only does the film work as a classic for Stooges fans, but it represents a return to form for The Farrelly’s who haven’t made a film that’s worked this well since Kingpin. (I’m in the minority when it comes to not liking There’s Something About Mary apparently.) They do a great job balancing some truly classic physical and sight gags with their own patented blend of grossout humour, which here includes giving a dolphin the Heimlich manoeuvre, an infant pissing contest, and quite possibly the only ever close-up shot of an animal’s nutsack in a PG rated movie. They also work in a genuinely unforced sweetness that never turns saccharine or undercuts the movie. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Stooges as characters, but these are the Farrelly’s I had been missing for years.
The three leads walk and talk the part better than the stunt casting pipe dream that had kicked around the internet for years. They all fill the shoes of their respective Stooge with the right amount of aplomb and energy to make it feel like the same characters in a new situation. The supporting cast all knows that they signed on for a loving homage to a dead series of serials, and they know what they’re in for. And gosh darnit, everyone looks like they’re having fun. Even Larry David. LARRY DAVID LOOKS LIKE HE’S HAVING FUN.
But back to that trailer I mentioned earlier and when I mentioned that the film is still only 85% good. The Three Stooges does stumble slightly in the third and final story of the film that shows Moe becoming a reality television star. Before that moment the film didn’t rely too heavily on modern references for laughs, but in this section the focus shifts somewhat to easy potshots at what people find funny today. It’s conceptually interesting to a degree and there is some payoff, but in a film that feels more old timey than post-modern its kind of a false note to hit. That’s really the only complaint I can muster since I laughed like a banshee through most of this despite never even liking the Stooges shorts as a kid. This movie truly makes me want to revisit them now.
Sorry again for the random bursts of shouting or if you do go see this film and you truly don’t end up liking it. Sometimes the internet just gets me down. A simple Google search on variations of “The Three Stooges sucks” on Thursday night before the film opens yields thousands of hits from people who haven’t seen the movie or haven’t given it a chance. It’s part of the reason I started the Defending the Indefensible series. Because sometimes the internet can be as cruel as a kick in the groin. Save your vitriol for something you’ve actually seen and hated. That’s what I always do.