Friday, April 13, 2012

The Three Stooges [2012]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (L)  Roger Ebert (2 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb Listing -
CNS/USCCB Review -
Roger Ebert's Review -

Okay, I honestly didn't expect The Three Stooges [2012] (screenplay by Mike Cerrone along with Bobby and Peter Farrelly who directed the film) a contemporary reboot of the beloved and wildly popular (to this day!) Three Stooges of Hollywood's b&w silver-screen era to work. I did not.  I wondered why makers of the would want to risk making it.  After all, I would have bet it would have ended-up as a disaster.  And who knows, it still may end-up being a financial disaster.  HOWEVER, about 10-15 minutes into the film, shaking my head with surprise, I, a lifelong Three Stooges fan became convinced that Mike Cerrone and the Farrelly brothers were actually going to pull this thing off.

This probably shouldn't be all that surprising given that both Mike Cerrone and the Farrelly brothers had written films for comedic actors of our time like Jim Carrey and Jack Black.  And whatever else one may think of those two actors, those of us who grew-up watching reruns of The Three Stooges (YouTube) / Abbott and Costello (YouTube) / Marx Brothers (YouTube) on daytime local TV and would have seen a Jim Carrey / Jack Black movie or two would probably imagine that these writers would have been Three Stooges (YouTube) fans when they were young as well and therefore could probably do The Three Stooges some justice today.  What continues to surprise me is the amount of justice that the writers and also honestly the three actors playing Larry (Sean Hayes), Curly (Will Sasso) and Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos) were able to give the originals.  My hat off to them all.

So what's the film about?  Well among other things, the film seeks to explain the origins of the three characters.  Taking a page from The Blues Brothers [1980] (which used the same device to explain the origins of Jake and Elwood Blues), the Three Stooges are presented as having grown-up in an orphanage. The three are shown being tossed to the doorstep of the orphanage as infants, all three packed in a single duffle-bag, from a speeding car.  From the beginning, they prove to be a "problem" to the nuns, yet loveable enough that the nuns can never bring themselves to just give-up on them completely. Mother Superior is played by Jane Lynch.  Other nuns in the story include Sister Rosemary (played by Jennifer Hudson), Sister Bernice (played by Kate Upton) and the would be sadistic but in face of the Stooges, hapless, Sister Mary-Mangele is played by Larry David ;-).

Much of course happens.  The main situation that both the nuns and the Stooges find themselves facing is that the Orphanage finds itself in dire financial straits: the nuns have to raise $830,000 in a month's time or the Orphanage will have to close and the Orphans would have to be farmed out "foster families," something that at least one of the orphans declares would be "unbearable" as she didn't want to be sent to a family "that would be paid to love [her]."  (An interesting take on the current foster care system...).

The Three Stooges, adults now, offer to "save the day" by going "out into the world" to find/earn the $830,000 in a month's time.  The nuns are "conflicted" in letting them do this.  After all, this would be the first time that the three actually left the Orphanage on their own.  On the other hand, the nuns were desperate, and truth be told if there was a third hand, they'd also finally be able to get rid of them.  So all in all, while "conflicted," the nuns are actually kinda happy to let them go.

Well, how does one make $830,000 in a month's time if one has no discernible skills?  Well, holding-up a sign saying "Will wirk for $830,000" doesn't exactly attract a lot of takers ;-) ... except if you're a gold-digging wife (played by Sofia Vergara, I'm starting to "get her" and like her choices in roles ;-) trying to hire someone to knock-off her husband ... So again much ensues ...

Finally, Snooki from MTV's reality television series The Jersey Shore [IMDb] has already been featured in the trailer to the film.  So it's not really giving much away to say that, she/her character has a significant role in how the film turns out.

It all, of course, "ends well," and like these Hollywood Vaudeville acts of the 1920s-50s in the midst of the jokes, slapstick (and in anything associated with The Three Stooges, there's certainly going to be a lot of slapstick ;-) and general goofiness of the film, there's actually a fair amount of social commentary.

After all, what the nuns have to do to save the Orphanage ... So it's funny, nyuk, nyuk and all that ... but the film has more to say than just that.  

Would I recommend the film?  Sure.  There is exactly one shot showing the young Sr. Bernice in a tight black designer bathing suit (and a veil) serving "as a life guard" for the orphans after the nuns "come into some money' at the end.  Yes, that may offend some Catholics at first glance.  But, perhaps with caution (I do understand) please let it go.  She's serving as a lifeguard in the scene and it is a generally goofy movie.  I do believe that MPAA got this movie right.  It is appropriately rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested).  Now go to the movie, buy some popcorn and enjoy it with the kids ;-)


A "reboot" film like this, gives viewers an opportunity to come home and look-up all kinds of comedic acts from that bygone era which are truly worthy of "looking-up" from Charlie Chaplin (YouTube), to Laurel and Hardy (YouTube) to the Marx Brothers (YouTube) to Abbott and Costello (YouTube).

All these acts are fun and many of them are available not merely in clips on YouTube but also are rentable through NetFlix.

Neither was this kind of humor simply an "American affair."  All three of the countries that I know most about, produced their home grown acts as well.  The Italians produced Toto and Peppino de Filippo (YouTube).  In Mexico, the "little guy" Cantinflas (YouTube) found himself perpetually in trouble "with the law," even as he often outsmarted it.  And even Vlasta Burian (YouTube) enchanted Czech audiences with the same/similar style humor of the era.

Still, when it came to slapstick comedy The Three Stooges (YouTube) remained probably in a league all their own (YouTube) ;-).

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