Review: Old School Stooges Recreate the Dubious Original

I suspect I’m not alone in the memory of sitting, as a little girl, with my dad watching The Three Stooges reruns, him laughing so hard tears streamed down his face, me wondering what the fuss was.

No? I’m the only one?

Oh well.

I relived that experience watching The Three Stooges remake, opening today. The movie doesn’t so much revive the franchise as copy it from the 1930s and paste it into 2012. Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos and Will Sasso perfectly impersonate the vauldville actors turned movie stars, right down to their 1940s inflections and nuk-nuk sounds.

No attempt is made, however, to update the Stooges for 2012 or to play with the differences between then and now.

It’s an opportunity missed.

Larry, Curly, and Moe arrive at an orphanage run by nuns as babies and grow up harassing the sisters, falling off ladders, and being passed up for adoption. Grown to adulthood, they set out on a quest to earn enough money to save the orphanage before – gasp – the children are sent to foster care.

The orphanage, especially, feels like something out of little orphan Annie. Larry David is the best part of the film as a crabby nun, but Jane Lynch and Jennifer Hudson are wasted. The nuns are nice enough, but times are rough and the kids threadbare. Adoptive parents are presented with a line of children from whom to pick, given five minutes to think it over, and sent out the door with their shiny new kid.

Not a social worker or home visit in sight.

It’s a bit grating to people who actually care about adoption. The worst tidbit comes, however, when a kid disses some of the most selfless and sacrificial people in our country: foster parents. “I’m not going somewhere where they’re PAID to love me,” she screams, and those of us who know heroes who foster kids squirm.

It’s unnecessary and a bit heartless to set up the conflict that way.

That aside, most of the film follows the intellectually-challenged innocents as they ineptly try to earn money for those darn kids. This leads to a shady woman (Modern Family’s Sofia Veraga) who wants them to kill her husband. Their repeated painful attempts to dispatch her lover, whom they’ve mistaken for the target, lead to set sketches: Bumbling attempted murder on a sidewalk, in a hospital (in drag, no less), at a zoo. In between, they follow other rabbit trails leading to a salmon farm on a golf course, doing the Heimlich on a dolphin, and other such nonsense.

One satisfying rabbit trail, in the film’s only attempt at relevance, puts a Stooge on the set of Jersey Shore. Watching the boys beat each other? Decent. Watching them beat The Situation and Snooki? Priceless.

Long live the idiots!

Parts are funny, parts are stupid, and parts are impressive in their choreography of swinging arms, flying hammers, knocking noggins, and eye pokes. I found myself thinking, “Wow, I bet those three had to practice for days to get that right.”

You notice, I was thinking and not laughing.

The other thing I was doing was cringing because the hard hits looked to me like they hurt and weren’t all that funny. “Ouch” is not the same as laughter.

Which transported me back to how I felt watching the original Stooges with my dad. Maybe it has something to do with my double X chromosome, but they didn’t do it for me then and they don’t so much now.

Rated PG for slapstick violence and some suggestive language, the most suggestive gag is a nun played by the buxom Kate Upton in a revealing swim suit.

 

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey


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