Don't be a numbskull and write off Peter and Bobby Farrelly's remake of The Three Stooges before seeing it. This is a more than reasonable facsimile of the comedy act that launched 1,000 emergency room visits. Who'd a thunk that a hammer to the noggin could hurt, when it looked so funny?
The silly mugs have changed but the doinks, plinks and kettle drum sound effects of slapstick abuse remain the same. The Farrellys affectionately structure their movie to resemble the Stooges' one-reelers from the 1930s, while the modern setting shows how timeless their rapid-fire puns, insults and pratfalls truly are. Silliness never goes out of style.
Impersonating these comedic icons — and, really, who hasn't among friends? — is a scary proposition for any actor. The trio who drew the short straws here won't erase memories of Moe Howard, his brother Curly, and Larry Fine but do a fine job of channeling their brand of impudent ignorance. Only the most stubborn Stooge purists will complain.
We've seen Will Sasso's Curly before, on Mad TV, so it isn't surprising that his woo-woo-woos and nyuk-nyuk-nyuks are spot-on. Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) solidly captures Larry's receded hairline, dim squint and nasal wisecracks. And watch how Chris Diamantopoulos makes Moe more than a bulldog jaw under a bowl haircut. Their choreographed slap fests and handshakes are nearly equal to the originals.
The Three Stooges is divided into three episodes, each opening with a throwback title card and Three Blind Mice on the soundtrack. Part 1 is More Orphan Than Not, tracing the Stooges' childhood in a foster home run by nuns. Yes, Larry had that hairline at age 10, Moe was just as bossy, and Curly just as dumb, played by child actors who'll never live it down.
Part 2 is The Bananas Split, following the now kind of adult Stooges' quest to raise a fortune to save the orphanage. They're hired by a femme fatale (Sofia Vergara) to kill her husband, so she can run off with his best friend. Naturally the plan fails, and a rift among the Stooges sends Moe packing, hired as the latest roommate on Jersey Shore. Yes, Snooki and the Situation show up but watching Moe go Stooges on them is one of the more gratifying movie sequences this year.
The plots dovetail in Part 3, No Moe Mister Nice Guy, when the Farrellys drift into cruder humor than Stooges might attempt. Vergara's bosom gets a sound gag, a dolphin's distress and a lion's privates are punchlines, and flatulence saves the day. Add that to an earlier scene of the Stooges using urinating babies as Super Soakers, to realize that the dirty stuff isn't funny in this context. Stooge humor is purer of heart, despite the bruises.
Stick around for the epilogue when the Farrellys (rather, hunks posing as them) deliver a public service announcement that hammers used by the Stooges are made of rubber, and eyebrows are poked, not eyes. They don't want to hear from any law firms depicted in the movie, especially Kickham, Harter and Inthagroyne.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.