Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Three Stooges

Going Through a Series of Stooges
A Reboot Right in the Keister

Last week, a Catholic bishop made headlines by comparing President Obama to Hitler (one suspects for the mandate that birth control—a Catholic "no-no"—be provided as part of health care, instead of only God being allowed to service the reproductive equipment) and beating his breast over "the culture war against the Catholic Church."  

"Why, I oughta..."

Two things: Any recent problems the Papists have had lately, they've brought on themselves (and frankly, some of those priests should be practicing birth control);* and, it's funny that he's invoking Hitler now, when his Church took a virtual vow of silence on Der Fuerher during the Second World War, during what was a real flesh-and-blood religious war and not some fantasy "culture war."  That argument does not hold holy water, which one is starting to suspect is made up of crocodile tears.

But...wait.  After seeing The Three Stooges,** one might concede the bishop a point or two...right in the eye-balls.  The plot concerns the new version of the Stooges ("Moe"=Chris Diamantopoulos, "Larry"=Sean Hayes, "Curly"=Will Sasso) trying to raise money for the orphanage they grew up in (shades of The Blues Brothers).  The boys are left there as infants and grow up to be complete idiots (while the nuns age not a day***).

The nuns include Jane Lynch (unfortunately, dialed down from her potential), Jennifer Hudson, Kate Upton (Sports Illustrated's latest bikini cover-girl), and...Larry David (as Sister Mary Mengele).  It's a small shock to see David in the role, but apt, as he (she?) gets the lion's share of the abuse from the boys (and after years of cringing at David's antics on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" a little cathartic), but once the plot gets going, the hi- and lo-jinks get spread out for all sorts of guest stars, including Stephen Collins, Sofia Vergara, and the cast of "Jersey Shore" (also particularly satisfying, when "Moe" briefly joins and abuses the cast).  The film is divided into three episodes that eventually come together at the end.  It works, and surprisingly well, as the Farrelly brothers are fans enough not to mess with what worked in the past (and, of course, made them fans).

This director team is hit or miss for me.  They can "work" (as in the anarchic There's Something About Mary) or not (Dumb and Dumber, where I didn't laugh once and kept checking my watch).  But, this one clicks along at a good pace, generated by the facile performances of Hayes, Fasso and Diamantopoulos.  The brothers are very aware that this one will be mostly for kids—their other PG-rated film was Osmosis Jones—and there's even a post-script (by Faux-Farrelly's) warning youngsters "don't try this at home" and showing how eye-pokes are done and the rubber hammers props.  So, this is a diluted version of what they could have done with it, and one can only imagine how much further they could take it.

But then, one wonders what would have happened if the original casting had gone through: Jim Carrey as "Curly," Sean Penn as "Larry," and Benicio Del Toro as "Moe."  All fell through for one reason or another.  "Creative differences," maybe.  Gee.  Ya think?  With those three involved, things might have been a bit more socially-oriented—having The Stooges involved in the banking industry, or maybe involved with the initial Hurrican Katrina response.  But, I'd like to think that a great comedic vehicle ripe with with possibilities would be the one place they might naturally fit in—Congress.

The Three Stooges is a Rental.

The original Larry, Moe, and Curly

* I'm a recovering Catholic, by the way, take that for what you will.

**  Should we be calling it "Three Stooges 2.0?"  Or after the "Shemp" and "Curly Joe" years, is "Three Stooges 4.0" more accurate.  At what Stooge are we?)

*** This is a quibble and thinking WAY too hard for a Stooges movie—any Stooges movie—and that is one thing the Farrelly brothers do really well here: keep the comedy simple and stupid, on the order of the comedy era in which the originals wreaked havoc.  There's always a tendency in remakes and re-boots to complicate matters, as if to legitimize it in some way.  Not here.  You can't take this stuff seriously in any way, shape or form.  But, the sheer visceral joy of the Stooges is amped up slightly, matching the already precise vaudevillian timing of the first Stooges.

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