In 1930, a film called “Soup to Nuts” was released. Though it didn’t break box office records it is best remembered for one great achievement: introducing the world to The Three Stooges. Consisting of brothers Moe and Shemp Howard (Shemp would be replaced by Curly shortly afterwards) and violinist Larry Fine, the trio poked, kicked and nyuk-nyuk-nyuked their way through almost 200 shorts and feature films. Their popularity was so great that their studio, Columbia, would refuse to rent them to theatre owners unless they promised to play a poorly performing Columbia feature. The Stooges continued on in various forms (after Curly died, Shemp returned – following Shemp’s death both Joe Besser and Joe DeRita followed). In the 1960s, as television took off, the Stooges were introduced to a new generation, including me. Parents began to complain that their children were poking each other in the eyes and I’ve heard of several cases of one sibling hitting another one in the head with a hammer just because it looked funny on TV. Now, almost four decades after the last Stooges, Moe and Larry, passed away, comes a film that tries to recapture the magic of good, old fashioned slapstick comedy.
Presented in a series of faux-shorts (the first one titled “More Orphan Then Not”), “The Three Stooges” begins with three boys being dropped off at an orphanage. As they grow up they seem to attract any mishap that might be in the area. Moe (Skyler Gisondo) is the bossy one of the bunch. Larry (Lance Chantiles-Wertz) is the quiet one. His silence, along with his very unusual head of hair, make prospective parents wonder if he is undergoing chemotherapy. Curly (Robert Capron) is the million-miles-a-minute hyper one. But they are a team. Years later, now adults, the boys learn the orphanage is in threat of being closed due to funding. Determined to save their home, the Stooges make their way out into the world.
Full of the classic timing and slapstick humor that have made the Stooges fan favorites for almost a century, “The Three Stooges” could have been a horrible disappointment. It would have been difficult to create a bio pic about the boys because their personalities are so engrained in our memories. But to actually emulate all that made the Stooges popular, and do it well, is a miracle. All three leads are superb comedians in their own right, with Emmy award winner Hayes (Larry) being the most recognizable. Sasso (Curly) is a comedy vet with a long stint on “Mad TV” while Diamantoupoulis (Moe) is known more for his serious work on shows like “24.” They all succeed in bringing the Stooges to life with Diamantoupoulis seeming to be channeling Moe Howard. To learn that Howard died less than a week before Diamantoupoulis was born makes that last sentence eerie!
The comedy is pretty toned down by Farrelly brother standards. The majority of the laughs come from the onscreen shenanigans. When the script calls for the inclusion of peeing babies and a testicle joke or two, these modern comedy attempts seem startlingly out of place. But old fans and new fans should rejoice as the Stooges are introduced to a new generation.
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