There doesn’t seem to be a single pressing reason for the Farrelly Brothers to have made a Three Stooges-less movie titled “The Three Stooges.” Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s love of the Stooges is well-known, but they should have left well enough alone after “Dumb and Dumber,” a superior and certainly easier to swallow Stooges homage. For starters, the three comedians in the Farrellys’ new and more direct tribute’s title roles just don’t have any comedic chemistry. Geographically, the Farrellys’ trio may be close-knit but beyond that, there’s nothing to suggest that Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos are an organically united group. It should be noted that there’s also nothing categorically wrong with the Farrellys reusing their idols’ routines. But if the actors playing the Stooges can’t form a good, cohesive troupe of comedians, resurrecting Moe, Larry and Curly is pointless.
At this point, it should also be noted that the Stooges are literally treated as roles. Sasso, formerly of “Mad TV” fame, is fat and bald like Curly, so that’s not too much of a stretch. But Hayes is given an intentionally phony looking wig to recreate Larry Howard‘s iconic hairstyle and the same is true of Diamantopoulos and Moe’s bowl haircut. This makes the Farrellys’ ‘Three Stooges’ pointless. Much of the humor of the original Stooges’ routines came from how physically ugly and hence comically undesirable the trio were. If any supporting character or antagonist was stupid or inept in a Stooges short, the Stooges themselves were infinitely stupider and more inept. But these new Stooges are not brothers, are not naturally hideous and are also not much of a team. Sasso, Hayes and Diamantopoulos are three talented but incompatible comedians playing dress-up while aping the mannerisms of dead guys that became famous for their original schtick. What’s so funny about these new Stooges?
Ostensibly, the main gag behind “The Three Stooges” is seeing these three vaudeville characters tramping around in a modern-day setting. The film begins with Moe, Larry and Curly being dumped on the doorsteps of an orphanage run by the kind-hearted Mother Superior (Jane Lynch) and the cranky Sister Mary-Mengele (Larry David in drag). The Stooges grow up but, being lazy and incompetent even in adulthood, are still stuck at the orphanage. A generically contrived crisis worthy of Happy Madison‘s most creatively lazy films finds the orphanage $830,000 in debt — but the Stooges rise to the challenge of saving it! After heading into the city to raise the required funds, the trio becomes unwittingly involved in a scheme hatched by Mrs. Harter (Carly Craig) and Mac (Craig Bierko), adulterous lovers that are trying to kill Teddy (Kirby Heyborne), Mrs. Harter’s husband, so they can inherit his wealth.
The fact that the plot of “The Three Stooges” is as disposable as it is relatively unimportant as the original Stooges often recycled the plots of their shorts. What’s really upsetting about screenwriter Mike Cerrone and the Farrellys’ script is that it doesn’t do anything with the Stooges as characters beyond pay lip service to the original trio. The film’s main plot is divided pointlessly into three half-hour episodes as a tribute to how the Stooges’ shorts were always about 16-20 minutes long. But none of the original Stooges’ flair for manic slapstick has been retained. Some quips, like the way Curly mewls, “I’m a victim of soy-cum-stance,” or later jokes that they’re related to a stranger because, “his mother and my mother are both mothers,” are understandably taken directly from the Stooges’ original shorts. But there’s a lot more expository dialogue and high-handed moralizing in “The Three Stooges” than there are amiably goofy sight gags, wise-cracking puns and hyper but good-natured violence.
“The Three Stooges” never really finds its footing. It goes from mocking the cast of “The Jersey Shore,” who are actually prominently featured in three scenes, to perfunctorily trying to convince us that they genuinely care about the Stooges’ orphanage. The filmmakers are clearly more comfortable taking cheap shots at the Kardashians and mocking Craig for being a shrewish bimbo with a massive pair of breasts (her cleavage is thrust into the camera’s lens so often that it’s hard to imagine that the Farellys weren’t preparing their film for 3D post-conversion). But they also needlessly take time to develop a vestigial plot about Murph and Peezer (Avalon Robbins and Max Charles), two orphans that are fiercely devoted to each other.
But again, these weak jokes sandwich the already soggy Stooges gags. It really doesn’t help that Diamantopoulos, Hayes and Sasso don’t have the basic flair for timing that the original Stooges did. Moe, Larry and Curly’s collective charms were always modest and a little bit of humor went a long way. But in the new Stooges don’t have a modicum of natural charm that the Farrellys can draw on. Even the irresistibly charismatic Larry David is given nothing to do but yell and get hit over the head with various blunt objects. You know the Farrellys’ creative well has run dry when they can’t make the inspiration for George Constanza wearing a nun’s habit funny. [C]