In times of global political uncertainty, economic malaise and sporting gloom-and-doom, all the world needs is hairpulling, a sledgehammer to the crotch or a perfectly timed slap to the face.
Some critics really panned The Three Stooges, saying that this remake of the slapstick classic lacked the charm and the playfulness of the 80 or so classic short films that the team of Moe, Larry and Curly made beginning back in the 1930s.
But the critics didn’t attend this one with the youngster who loudly proclaimed, “That was super funny!” as the credits rolled at the end. In fact, the whole picture elicited laughter throughout the Cinemark Louis Joliet Cinema on Saturday morning, even moreso than American Reunion generated last weekend.
I think the critics who dismissed The Three Stooges with a D- grade or so (that’s you, Dean Richards of WGN-TV) secretly believe the team of Sean Hayes (Larry), Will Sasso (Curly) and Chris Diamantopoulous (Moe) committed the cardinal sin of recreating something that men of a certain age hold reverential.
But seriously, Dean? You gave American Reunion an A and this a D-? This picture was fun, innocent (well, as innocent as Sofia Vergara can be with a rat lodged in her ample cleavage) and loyal to the original franchise on just about every level. It’s a fun flick that’s going to entertain everyone, from 6-year-olds to those who remember the original works.
I’m no Stooges scholar, but I always appreciated the conedy team's madcap, black-and-white shenanigans. Between the towering Three and “Tom and Jerry” cartoons, a generation of people learned the hysterical possibilities of a stick of dynamite or a heavy object falling from great heights (both on display here).
The plot here is a time-honored one, as Richards at WGN caustically noted in comparing it to The Blues Brothers (an archetypal save-the-place plotline he missed in his review of The Muppets): the local Catholic archdiocese (and it’s not clear where this is set) decides to close down the orphanage where the stooges were reared. The three bumbling brothers then embark on an attempted fundraising blitz, one that finds them sleeping in dumpsters and entertaining financial endeavors involving murder (which thankfully never happens).
The all-star cast, including Larry David as Sister Mary-Mengele (and holy Moses, I wonder how many people are going to miss the reference to the Nazi Angel of Death that the Jewish David references here with that name. Now that’s a dark sense of humor not quite desensitized by 70 years), Jane Lynch as Mother Superior, Jennifer Hudson as Sister Rosemary and the great Brian Doyle-Murray as Monsignor Ratliffe, makes this a modernly star-studded affair full of laughs.
Listen closely to the tunes here as well. You’ll hear protopunk Jonathan Richman, Bob Dylan and some modern indie rock too. Good stuff!
In the end, Moe winds up giving the cast of Jersey Shore its eye-poking deservance (one of the Jersey guys calls Moe a “mook” here, the best use of that mostly ignored put-down since Marty Scorsese’s Mean Streets), the Stooges are reunited and they lope off into the sunset uncomfortably on a trio of wild horses. It’s all good fun.
“What do you think this is, The Sound of Music?” — Sister Mary-Mengele to the orphans, as they break into song.
“They’re like the holy trinity!” — An unsuspecting nun upon the delivery of the Stooges to the orphanage.
“Heavy lifting and ditch-digging — that’s their dream” — Moe on his brothers’ future plans.
“We caught this lounge lizard getting all handsy with the sisters” — Moe after delivering a physical drubbing to Monsignor Ratliffe.
Other observations at the moviehouse
- For the first time in ages, the previews before this one contained no shooting, fireballs, brooding superheroes or dreaded director Ridley Scott. If it takes the Stooges to rid the trailers of violence and senseless violent beasts, bring ‘em on for some sequels!
- The orange juice ad before the movie was quite appropriate given the 10 a.m. start time of this one. However, the concession stand needs to offer up bagels or cereal to form a complete breakfast for those starting the day with a movie.
- NPR comes to theater soon for a cinematic version of the radio show This American Life. Liberals Unite! At least the liberals that aren’t headed to the “Grateful Dead Meetup at the Movies” this Thursday, April 19.