Despite the fact that The Three Stooges hold a solid place in the cultural fabric of America, there wasn’t much hope that a 2012 film version of the trio’s misadventures would reach the slapstick brilliance heights of the Stooges’ 1930s and 1940s classic shorts. In fact, that might be the reason why it took Peter and Bobby Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary) nearly two decades to finally get to make this movie, the pair’s all-time dream project. In particular, the announcements of the cast were underwhelming and the promotional material was rather poor, so I passed on this in theaters. But now that I’ve seen it on Blu-ray, what do I think?
THE FILM: This movie is a labor of love for much of the cast and crew, so the best part about it is the genuine appreciation for the legacy of the Three Stooges that permeates throughout the film. Both Sean Hayes (TV’s Will & Grace) and Will Sasso (MadTV) are wonderful as Larry and Curly, but by far the true star is the previously little-known Chris Diamantopoulos, who is such a dead ringer in voice, presence, and appearance of Moe Howard that you’d swear it actually is the original Moe. The Farrellys also filled the cast with some strong supporting characters, including Jane Lynch, Brian Doyle-Murray, and, of course, Larry David, who plays a nun who bears the worst of the Stooges’ mishaps. And any film that features both Sofia Vergara and Kate Upton can’t be all bad, right?
Nonetheless, The Three Stooges fails as a movie on a number of levels. While the storyline is ripe for comedy — the Stooges have to raise $830,000 to save the orphanage they grew up in and take on a number of odd tasks in order to do so — I’m not sure why there had to be so much dialogue and non-Stooge bits in this movie. If I’m seeing a movie about the Three Stooges, I want to see the Stooges — not learn about the past lives of some of the other kids in the orphanage. I was also disappointed that the Farrellys resorted to piss and fart jokes at a few points, which don’t really fit the Stooges’ style of humor. There is one scene in a hospital that involves the Stooges using newborn babies as water guns (if you’ve ever changed a diaper at the wrong moment you’ll get how), and though it might have been funny as a one-joke bit it becomes a several minutes-long sequence that simply isn’t funny.
Much of the final third of the film revolves around Moe, who gets cast on the Jersey Shore. While that bit is funny for 2012, I don’t think the filmmakers realize that it will seem incredibly dated even five years from now, especially since the Jersey Shore gang are terrible actors (though they’re good sports for taking all of the slaps and bashes from Moe). Again, the best thing about the film is that all the actors — including the non-Stooges — seem to be genuinely thrilled to be in this movie, and all of the slapstick bits are right on the mark. The negative is that I can’t believe that after nearly twenty years this was the best story the Farrellys and longtime collaborator Mike Cerrone could come up with. Trust me, you know a plot is bad when I can point to it and say “this doesn’t even work for a Three Stooges movie,” since the plots of the old Stooges shorts weren’t usually sophisticated (nor did they need to be). It just seems to be a shame to waste all this talent on a movie that ought to have been a lot better.
THE EXTRAS: For a movie that didn’t do huge numbers at the box office, The Three Stooges has a lot of features on the Blu-ray disc:
Deleted/Extended Scenes: Unfortunately, these scenes are mostly extra jokes that didn’t make the cut from scenes and there aren’t any new stunts. It’s obvious why some of the jokes were cut, including one by Larry about Stephen Hawking that simply doesn’t sound right coming out of the mouth of a Stooge.
What’s the Big Idea?: A History of The Three Stooges: A ten-minute feature that explores the history of the Three Stooges. It’s a decent overview, but a bit light on the specifics. It does feature some classic Stooges clips, which is a nice touch.
Knuckleheads: Behind the Scenes of The Three Stooges: It’s pretty fascinating to hear Peter and Bobby Farrelly explain in this feature exactly why The Three Stooges was the hardest film they ever shot — while they’re known for comedy, they’ve never made a comedy with this much stunt work, and this focuses on the challenges of that.
Did You Hear That? The Three Stooges Sound Effects: For any aspiring sound mixes out there, this feature describes exactly how important the cartoonish sound effects of The Three Stooges are to the slapstick. It’s interesting to see how key those noises are to making the bumps and blows funny.
Poifect! Casting The Three Stooges: Unfortunately, this feature only explains how good the final casting choices for the film are. It doesn’t go into detail about some of the earlier casting choices that didn’t pan out (Sean Penn was to play Larry, Benicio del Toro was to play Moe, and Jim Carrey was to play Curly. Other rumored choices included Hank Azaria and Johnny Knoxville for Moe and James Marsden and Paul Giamatti for Larry).
The Three Stooges Mash-Up: All of the best bits in the movie set to music. Pretty much unnecessary if you’ve watched the movie.
Screen Test: The original screen test for Diamantopoulos, Hayes, and Sasso, which shows that all three were pretty much perfect for the roles from the start.
You also get the original trailer and trailers to several other films (a completely random assortment, I might add).
FILM RATING: The gang gets an “A” for effort, but it simply isn’t as funny as it ought to be (4/10).
EXTRAS RATING: Surprisingly thorough and far more informative than I expected (6/10).
OVERALL RATING: 5/10
The Three Stooges is now available on Blu-ray and DVD