Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, who had been eyeing this as their dream project since before they made “There’s Something About Mary,” the new film attempts to bring the time-tested Stooges slapstick formula to the present day, complete with loads of modern pop culture references. And that’s ultimately the movie’s failure- that intersection is never funny, at any point.
The new movie tells the Stooges’ origin story, as they’re dropped off at an orphanage as kids, and then are still living there decades later despite all being 40 years old.
Sticking the Stooges- all of them Jewish to their very core for the last eight decades- in a Catholic orphanage is just one of many things in this movie that make no damned sense. Meanwhile, casting Larry David as a nun -and naming her “Mother Mengele”- is just one of many ideas here that are way funnier in theory than in practice. Jane Lynch is in the same boat- a major talent cast as a nun and given absolutely nothing funny to do.
In sending the Stooges off to earn money to save the orphanage, the script blatantly plagiarizes the plot of “The Blues Brothers,” only replacing all the music with asinine plot machinations, including a murder-for-hire plot that isn’t exactly in line with Stooge tradition.
During the film’s long gestation, everyone from Sean Penn to Benecio Del Toro to Hank Azaria to Jim Carrey was attached at one point or another, although the movie ultimately went ahead with the much less star-studded trio of Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos in the title roles. The actors’ performances, though, are just about the only thing in the movie that works. They look and sound remarkably like the original Stooges, and you can tell they’re trying very hard.
Roughly 40 percent of the film is taken up by the traditional Stooges shtick- the three characters repeatedly hitting each other, punctuated with comical sound effects. It’s funny like it’s always been, but a little of it goes a long way. There’s a reason the Stooges always made short films.
But all the slapstick in the world can’t overcome all of the many places the film goes wrong. Its horrible script is stuffed full of feeble jokes about Facebook, iPhones, and reality TV, including an extended “Jersey Shore” cameo that’s painfully unfunny and will date the film instantly. The filmmakers seem to think its inherently hilarious for characters who look and talk like they’re from the 1930s to reference movies and technology of today , as if this were a time travel comedy or something.
I can imagine the hardest of hardcore Stooge fans will love it; the guy on one side of me at the screening repeated every punchline, while the guy on the other mimicked every sound effect. But nobody else will.The Three Stooges: The Ultimate Collection