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The Three Stooges: For Better & For Worse

By Brock Wilbur · April 17, 2012

So this happened.

We have a movie about The Three Stooges. Not about them, put paying "tribute" to their style. Does vaudevillian slapstick work as well in 2012 as in 1934? It could. I mean, what is the Squeakquel or most of the other kiddie CGI fare now, if not a series of physical gags, dancing, bad puns, and sound effects?

You'd think our palettes would have refined over the last eighty years, but that would be both expecting too much, and also a bit reductive. After all, slapstick isn't dumb. Or it doesn't have to be. It truly is a separate art form, and when handled with care and precision, can transcend into greatness. This… is not greatness. This isn't even good. But the uncanny valley of sorts which exists between this film's elements and it's follow through is worth examining.

The Farrelly Brothers bring us Larry (Sean Hayes), Curly (Will Sasso), and Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), three orphans that grow up together in a Catholic orphanage. Due to tragic circumstances, the orphanage will be shut down unless the boys can manage to raise nearly a million dollars in one week, so they drive across Illinois putting the band back together. When they cause epic mayhem in the form of a thirty cop car pile-up… That's Blues Brothers? Right. That's what I said.

Infamously, the casting of this film has passed through a number of people. Jim Carrey, Johnny Knoxville, Andy Samberg, Hank Azaria, Benicio del Toro and several others were in the running for the main three. What we're left with is Will Sasso, plus two. More shocking than the dud casting in leads is the number of big stars that seem trapped in this film, probably having signed up when larger names were attached, and now unable to break free. Larry David, Kate Upton, and Jane Lynch play nuns. That's a sentence that feels invented in the midst of an Ambien-haze, not a real thing that I would have to watch with my eyes. Sofia Vergara chews some scenery. Brian Doyle-Murray, Jennifer Hudson, and Isaiah Mustafa do things. Or whatever.

Kate Upton and Sofia Vergara did a movie together, and it was this.

The entire film culminates in the failure of The Three Stooges to accomplish their mission, and the probable death of a child. That's… one of the things that needs discussing here. The Three Stooges is dark. Like unnecessarily so, and remains that way throughout. Every single character has some kind of back-story or motivation based on the death of a family member, deceit, or some other tragedy. Hell, the middle act is about Vergara hiring the Stooges to murder her husband. But it's all done with such a heavy blanket of melodrama; acoustic guitars and swelling strings seem involved just to smother you with emotions that have no place in a film about eye-poking. Either make the Stooges real characters or don't give me an extended five-minute sequence of them squeezing live babies to blast each other with streams of urine. I realize that's a bit of a Sophie's choice. I don't have the "right" answer.

As mentioned, the film culminates in a failure, and the closing of the orphanage. Luckily, the cast of the Jersey Shore saves the day, mostly with money from their own pocket. The Three Stooges, a film made in 2012, relies on a Deus Ex Snookina.

There. Is that what you wanted? God isn't dead. He's very much alive. He just hate us. Me, personally. Because this movie, that probably only deserves a Pauly D-, beat The Cabin In The Woods at the box office. The Cabin In The Woods loses to The House On The Shore.

Bring on the cleansing hell-fire. Now, please.

So… to the crux of the matter. Apart from ridiculous narrative leaps and stunt casting, we should talk about the heart of the film. Because while all of this sounds like describing artistic blasphemy, we can't forget what the source material is. The Stooges both were and were not high-art, and it would be incorrect to assume the Farrelly Brothers came to this with anything less than pure love in their hearts. Does that show? Absolutely. Does that make it funny? Rarely. But you can't knock anyone involved for not doing their best to make this a faithful adaptation. It is, on so many levels, for better and for worse, exactly that.

But while there is love in the motivation, there is no ability to recapture what made these three madcap characters the kings of their form. Between direction and costuming, you can make three actors into carbon copies of the originals, but then you're just watching three grown men bring nothing new to the table. And there's the lack. There's no charm. What is the stupid face or the ridiculous sound effect or the painful fall without charm? There's our un-crossable valley. If you loved the Three Stooges, it's because you loved them as people. And you'll never feel the same way about an actor almost one-hundred years later, going through the motions for a paycheck.