Review of The Three Stooges

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Left on a nun's doorstep, Larry, Curly and Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, Will Sasso) grow up finger-poking, nyuk-nyuking and woo-woo-wooing their way to uncharted levels of knuckleheaded misadventure. While trying to save their childhood orphanage, The Three Stooges inadvertently stumble into a murder plot and wind up starring in a reality TV show.
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Movie Review: "The Three Stooges"

--Rating: PG
Length: 92 minutes
Release Date: April 13, 2012
Directed by: Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly
Genre: Comedy

"The Three Stooges" is a film based on the famous characters of the same name who had a series of successful shorts in the mid-20th century. Directed by the Farrelly brothers, the film features Larry (Sean Hayes), Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos) and Curly as they go on a series of misadventures to try and save the orphanage in which they were raised. Fans of the original Stooges shorts are in for a treat while those who are new to the characters may not understand what exactly is so funny.

The film begins with the Stooges as young children at the Sisters of Mercy Orphanage. Under the care of Mother Superior (Jane Lynch) and Sister Mary-Mengele (Larry David), the Stooges seem incapable of being adopted. Mother Superior even pretends that they are the only three children left at the orphanage, though this tack does not work. Eventually, the Stooges grow up at the orphanage and help care for the other children in their own way. When everyone learns that the orphanage will be shut down within 30 days unless they can come up with $830,000, Larry, Curly and Moe spring into action.

The film splits into a number of directions once the Stooges attempt to earn the money to save the orphanage. Each of the three different stories are evocative of a short film, while providing plenty of room for pratfalls, "nyuk-nyuk's" and eye pokes.

Bobby and Peter Farrelly have been trying to make a "Three Stooges" films for years, with the cast at one point being made up of Jim Carrey, Sean Penn and Russell Crowe. Even the director's earlier films, like "Dumb and Dumber," had bits of the Stooges' antics sprinkled throughout. Here, the Farrellys manage to make the best film possible out of Stooges lore, while adding a bit of their own sweet sensibilities to the movie.

The actors portraying the Stooges do a fantastic job of mimicking the original group. Sean Hayes, whose work in "Will and Grace" makes him the most well known of the three, truly disappears into Larry, while Chris Diamantopoulos has all of the fire and violent temper that Moe needs. Larry David's portrayal of Sister Mary-Menegele is also a treat, allowing him to add his particular brand of frustration and anger to the role. David, who once acted in a Three Stooges sketch on the show "Friday," is an obvious fan of the characters, and he delivers one of his best film performances to date.

While the actors and the directing team do their best to make it work, the film itself is a tough sell. For starters, the Stooges were an acquired taste during their heyday. In today's world, their humor is completely out of touch. Children and Stooges aficionados will appreciate the pratfalls, cartoon violence and Vaudevillian humor, but new audiences may have a hard time grasping the characters. The Farrelly brothers attempt to show this change by having Moe interact with the cast of "The Jersey Shore," but all this does is show how dated the Stooges are and how dated "The Jersey Shore" will be.

Unfortunately, this puts the Farrellys in a bind. They can't update the Stooges because then they wouldn't be the Stooges, but by keeping things as they are, the film feels really out of its time. This is a shame, because there is an obvious love and affection for these characters that makes this a sweet film to watch. However, sweet isn't funny, and what it comes down to is that the Stooges' brand of humor is no longer funny.

There are some inspired bits. The Farrellys were smart to break the film up into segments, giving it an episodic feel that is in line with the Stooges' origins. The basic plot is simple, but it works for the characters, even though it feels a bit too reminiscent of "The Blues Brothers."

Ultimately, this film will please fans of the original "Three Stooges." The Farrellys and their actors have created what might be the best possible Stooges movie without resurrecting the original actors. While the group gets an A for effort, the fact that the humor, pratfalls and jokes are so out of touch makes it a tough film to recommend. The cast and crew deserve all the credit in the world for making "The Three Stooges" happen, but it still doesn't change the fact that this is ultimately a minor film in their respective filmographies.