For once, a modern revival of a screen classic gets it right, as the new version of The Three Stooges is just as blissfully moronic as the originals.
Long a staple of low-rent UHF stations and hackneyed punch lines about the taste differences between men and women, the dependable old Stooges haven't been seen much in recent years, and this big-screen revival has languished in development hell for more than a decade. Along the way, a string of big names were briefly attached, including Jim Carrey, Hank Azaria, Benicio Del Toro and Sean Penn, which is curious, since the dour Penn hasn't been intentionally funny since Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It's probably for the best that the stars all passed on it, since the Stooges are lowbrow idols, and the spectacle of marquee names slumming would've distracted from what is already a fairly dubious enterprise.
Instead of stars we get the lower-wattage likes of Will Sasso, Chris Diamantopoulos and, shockingly, Will and Grace vet Sean Hayes, who does an uncanny impersonation of the inimitable Larry Fine. As Larry, Moe and Curly, this motley crew were left on the doorstep of an orphanage, where they remain as adults, since no one is dumb enough to adopt them. Their rearing is left to the nuns, played by familiar faces like Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson and, absurdly, Larry David, as the ball-busting "Sister Mary Mengele." Prolonged exposure to corporal punishment may explain why these guys handle every problem by conking each other in the noggin with sledgehammers, though how they survive the head trauma is left to artistic license. Due to the Stooges various blunders, the orphanage is facing foreclosure and nearly a million dollars in unpaid liability claims, which the boys are determined to make up — any stupid way they can. This, of course, involves mayhem, wackiness and endless slaps and eye pokes, as our trio of goons gets caught up in a murder plot involving a trophy wife (Sofia Vergara) and her sleazy lover (Craig Bierko).
All is but an excuse for slapstick and hokey puns that were musty 60 years ago. Such antics are tolerable in tiny doses, but the movie's slight 92-minute running time is really pushing things. Working under the PG guidelines, the famously raunchy Farrelly brothers manage to mostly restrain themselves, though there's a literal pissing contest, with infant boys used as squirt guns. You could argue that this scene, along with cameos by some truly loathsome reality TV types, are slaps to the Stooges "legacy," but that implies that the Three Stooges were ever really funny.
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