Comedy, 109 Minutes, 2012
Like most men of class and distinction I was raised on The Stooges. They tend to be an acquired taste – most often, in my experience, something handed down from father to son. I have fond memories spent in front of the TV on Sunday mornings watching them on a giant, wooden console TV with a small screen on the local UHF station. They’d play five or six of the classics in a row and we’d sitting on the (bright) orange shag carpet and eat cereal off the coffee table.
That’s why I’m so torn about this. On one hand the love the Farrelly Brothers have for the original stooges is clear and obviously deep. Unlike many modernizations they stay absolutely true to the source material. Where others would infuse the treatment with “modern” humor (often meaning foul-language and nudity) they stayed true to the spirit of the Stooges. With the exception of an odd fart joke and the bizarre inclusion of bikini-clad nun almost everything here could have played just as well in the 1930’s as today.
(One major misstep was to make a lengthy set of gags dependent on cameos by “The Jersey Shore” cast. This solidly dates the movie where the original classics are still – forgiving some technology issues – timeless. I would like to think that any sane society will have no idea what “Jersey Shore” was in a few years.)
On the other hand they’re almost too reverent. Although there are some gags based on modern misunderstandings much of the material is pulled straight from the classics and the original material easily could have been. The movie is, in fact, presented as three distinct classic-length “episodes” (which reminds the audience of how well this kind of humor works in smaller doses). With the script so true to the source the question of “why bother?” kept floating through my mind.
The movie is basically an attempt add new material to the Stooge library. It doesn’t help to introduce the characters to new audiences, bring them into the modern age or expand the original concept in any way. By relying on simple mimicry the Farrelly Brothers have made something worth watching but not something that ever feels compelling. You’re always aware that these guys are acting like the Stooges but aren’t actually the Stooges. It works as far as it goes but it simply doesn’t go that far.