Complete A-Z list

Three Stooges, The


Stars: Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Chris Diamantopoulos, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson, Craig Bierko, Larry David, Sofia Vergara, Stephen Collins

Director: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly

The Three Stooges, Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Shemp Howard, made supremely silly vaudeville-inspired short comedies saturated with sound effects-accentuated slapstick of (mostly) the painful kind. Knockabout, not subtlety was their hallmark in the some 190 two-reel comedies they made for Columbia Pictures between 1934 and 1959.

The Farrelly Brothers who proved with such comedies as There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber that they can get down and dirty with the best of them, deliver a witty, deliberately dumb tribute to the veteran trio, complete with the Stooges’ trademark assaults on each other by poking, prodding, hitting, slugging and slapping in a manner that would cause a contemporary Health and Safety official to suffer a conniption fit.

The infant trio are dumped on the steps of an orphanage and grow, bullied and moulded by a caustic sergeant-major style nun played (establishing right from the start the Farrellys' take on their subject) by habit-wearing but patently male Larry David, tastelessly dubbed Sister Mary-Mengele. By the time they are 10 year olds they already resemble mini-versions of the Stooges and behave appropriately.

They then emerge as idiotic adults who reasonably pass for the original trio despite being very untypically, in full colour. They are amusingly impersonated by Sean Hayes as Larry, Will Sasso as Curly and Chris Diamantopoulos as the anger-driven Moe and, decorated by loony slapstick, stupid comic situations and a gamut of noises to accompany the mayhem they commit on each other and the world around them, they venture into the outside world to raise $830,000 to save the orphanage from closure, creating constant comic chaos wherever they go…

There is a plot - the Stooges are hired as hitmen by unfaithful wife Sofia Vergara to dispose of her husband – which is well used to create a series of seriously silly scenes and motivate and deliver a torrent of mostly painful-looking but patently faked slapstick perpetrated with infectious zest on all and sundry by Hayes, Sasso and Diamantopoulos who happily revive memories of the originals while cleverly bringing their characters to life rather than offering stilted and unconvincing frame-by-frame impersonations.

Their loonier deeds include creating a salmon farm where live fish flap around on a green field, miles from the water, they use young babies as pee-shooters in a drenching urine duel, a live lobster end up down the trousers of one unlucky Stooge, a rat dives down Vergara’s ample cleavage and there is plenty of eye-watering Stooge certified mayhem including the pulling of another person’s nasal hair and similarly tugging hair from another unfortunate’s armpits. To say nothing of a choking dolphin being given the Heimlich manouevre when its single nostril becomes blocked by an errant peanut…

Happily the Farrellys (who co-scripted with Mike Cerrone) have ruthlessly eliminated any sign of good taste to enjoyable low-laughter inducing effect. But they also take their responsibilities as filmmakers seriously and appear at the end to warn audiences not to attempt the Stooges’ cinematic mayhem in real life.

(Strangely the film comes from 20th Century Fox, rather than The Stooges' original home of Columbia Pictures).

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour b y deluxe.
91 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 22 Aug 2012