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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Movie Review- "The Three Stooges"

Ronald "Ronnie" Ortiz-Magro, Jr (after being slapped by Moe): "Hey, that's assault!"

Moe, before delivering double eye poke: "Yeah? Here's your pepper!"

Why do we like what we like?

If most of us are honest, we really don't know the source of our desires and tastes.

There are some things that invoke deeply polarized visceral reactions from people, things for which there is no middle ground. Things like scotch, olives, golf, raw seafood, Howard Stern, cowboy hats, or  jazz -- you either passionately love them or hate them.  And I think these powerful likes and dislikes tell us the most about ourselves, especially as these opposite poles meet in the "things we love to hate."

I think The Three Stooges fall into this category. You love them, hate them, or perhaps love to hate them. They provoke strong reactions from everyone. Even those who hate them know who they are.

During the Great Depression, vaudevillians Moses Horwitz, Jerome Horwitz, and Louis Feinberg created hundreds of short movies in which three holy fool archetypes -- the bullying loudmouth (Moe), the idiot man-child (Curley), and the clueless dreamer (Larry) --- witlessly stumbled through countless get rich quick schemes. Hilarity ensued, not just from their John Woo-like balletic violence against each other, but from how snobby heiresses, scheming con-men,  cruel cops, and puritans of all stripes became deserving victims of the resulting collateral damage.

In this, the Age of The Remake, it was only a matter of time. After years of stop and start "development hell", the Farrelly Brothers' "The Three Stooges" has arrived. 

Before Judd Apatow, from the early nineties to the early aughts, the Farrelly Brothers dominated movie comedies .  Their list of hits -- Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary, Me My Self and Irene, Kingpin, Outside Providence, Shallow Hall and Stuck on You ---with varying degrees of artfulness but with plenty of laugh out loud moments,  redefined movie comedies with a distinctive blend of slapstick toilet humor and surprisingly sweet characters. Their recent efforts, The Heartbreak Kid and Hall Pass, have been more uneven.

"The Three Stooges" development started back when the Farrellys (who always cited the Stooges as a key influence) were at their peak. At one point, Sean Penn was on board to play Larry, Russel Crowe slated to play Moe, and Jim Carrey was halfway through a De Niro-as-LaMotta 80 pound weight gain regimen to play Curley. Timing, scheduling conflicts, and the Farrellys' dropping Hollywood stock combined to stall the project for over a decade.

Its hard to imagine the three acting powerhouses listed above improving on the current cast, whose embodiment of the voices, character, and physicality of the original Stooges, is uncanny.

Sean Hayes of Will and Grace, with shaved head and bushy wig, captures Larry's nasal voice and loopy delivery perfectly (For you back-in-the-day WXRK listeners, Billy West, who performed the classic "Larry Fine at Woodstock" bit on K-Rock, was Hayes's voice coach for this role).

Will Sasso, cast member of Mad TV --- the much edgier and darker Saturday Night Live competitor, my devotion to which resulted in a huge gap in my SNL knowledge -- as Curley can only be described as channelling the late Jerome Horwitz's beefy comic grace and puppy-dog like loyalty and enthusiasm.

Finally, Chris Diamantopoulos, a pleasantly handsome "Oh yeah, that guy" actor with a string of supporting roles in various TV series ( Charmed, 24, The Starter Wife, Sopranos, Nip/Tuck ), is unrecognizable and pitch perfect as the bowl cut, baggy eyed, barking Moe.

The plot is structured as three separate half hour Stooges "shorts", each serving an act in the boys journey to raise the money to save the orphanage that raised them. The orphanage plot serves as a clever explanation for the Stooges innocence and childishness -- never having been adopted, they have lived to adulthood in the orphanage, never before having contact with the outside world until forced to venture out to raise the $860,000 needed to save it.
They are matched against villains Sophia Vergara (Modern Family) as a scheming seductress, and Larry David in drag as their Margaret Dumas at the orphanage, Sister Mary Mengele.

And speaking of things you love to hate, the cast of Jersey Shore is at their most watchable in a very funny subplot that wryly comments on the modern phenomenon of inadvertent (and inexplicable) fame.

What else to say? My guess is that my review, or any review, will not have the slightest impact on who sees this movie. So I'm not even going to venture a recommendation. The finest single malt scotch means nothing to you if you hate scotch. And I hate scotch. But I love olives. On the other hand, I hate golf but I do love raw seafood and Howard Stern. But I hate cowboy hats and jazz....


























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