Stars: Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Sofia Vergara, Craig Bierko, Larry David, Jane Lynch, Stephen Collins, Jennifer Hudson, Kirby Heyborne and Kate Upton.
Writers: Mike Cerrone, Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly.
Directors: Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly.
There is more than enough nyuk for your buck in The Farrelly Brother’s The Three Stooges. Surely representing the furthest that Hollywood has reached back for a reboot opportunity, this energetic no-brainer is at its best when (re)capturing the slapstick violence of Larry, Moe and Curly’s golden era; it works less well when riffing on easily-lampooned pop culture references. The semi-serious biopic that this project began as (quite incredibly, to star Sean Penn, Benicia del Toro and a voluminous Jim Carrey as Curly) is still one of Hollywood’s great missed opportunities, but this re-energising of arguably film comedy’s most undervalued performers is a more than fitting tribute.
Multi-hyphenate siblings Peter and Bobby – kind of low-brow cinema’s answer to Joel and Ethan Coen - have never fully rediscovered the dim-witted comedic joie de vivre that enlivened their hit debut, Dumb and Dumber, a film that grows in estimation as every year passes (yes, There’s Something About Mary is a classic, but the comedy is smarter and the plotting more structured). After three regrettable duds in the form of The Perfect Catch, The Heartbreak Kid and Hall Pass, they certainly seem to have got their mojo back with The Three Stooges.
The film ambles through a straight-outta-the-‘50’s ‘save-the-orphanage’ plotline as a means by which to allow Larry (Sean Hayes), Curly (Will Sasso) and Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos) to wreak vengeance upon snotty, immoral types. They include conniving siren Lydia (Sofia Vergara), her imbecilic lover Mac (Craig Bierko, whose delivery of the word “Penguins?” gets one of the films biggest laughs) and greedy businessman, Mr Harter (Stephen Collins). Caught up in the midst of high society, the eye-poking, hair-pulling idiots are a blissfully self-ignorant force-of-nature, bringing undone back-stabbing schemes and adulterous liaisons without a single clue as to how or why.
Split into three title-carded parts (a further nod to the comedy team’s short-feature filmography), the movie aims high in both its complex staging of physical gags and its dependence upon the audience’s willingness to just go with the elevated nuttiness of it all. Not all of it entire works; the decision to make Moe a reality TV star, unleashing him upon the unsuspecting sub-human numbskulls who populate MTV’s The Jersey Shore is too hit/miss (and will date the film instantly).
A lot of it works wonderfully, however. Perfectly-pitched performances by the three new Stooges, each one given their own moments to shine, and a sweetly sentimental line in brotherly love ensures that a paper-thin plot is of no consequence at all when it comes to the laugh-to-running-time ratio. Everything in the orphanage is hilarious, which is as it should be; a nunned-up Larry David and such diverse talents as Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson, Brian Doyle-Murray and supermodel Kate Upton play off the Stooges’ shenanigans with obvious glee.
The Farrelly’s don’t rely on the trio for all the film’s big laughs; just typing ‘Pokher, Keester & Wintz’, the name of a proctology partnership, has reduced me to tears and the brother's final-frames appearance to warn kids off mimicking the Stooges antics is priceless. But they could have, so lovingly realized is this reworking.