innovativecommunications.tv The Three Stooges have been resurrected for the 21st Century. Is that a good or bad idea? My thoughts coming up right now.

The slapstick characters Moe, Larry and Curly are back on the big screen, together again for the first time since their last appearance in the 1940’s. That’s a long stretch of time for a comeback! Only this time, they are not played by the originators-Moe and Curly Howard and Larry Fine, but instead are reincarnated by 3 remarkably similar looking and sounding actors who do a pretty fine job (pun intended) of bringing their characters back to life.

The Stooges have always had a polarizing effect on audiences, starting with their early appearances in the 1930’s. Most guys loved them, and most women thought they were stupid. Their highly physical gags involved pokes to the eyes, sledgehammers to the heads, crowbars stretching mouths, and other assorted mayhem. They were masters of their craft and delighted generations of kids–to the horror their moms.

So why bring them back? They are discovered daily by new audiences, and are fondly remembered and still watched by old fans-thanks to reruns on local TV shows like Chicago’s Stoogapalooza. The audience I viewed the film with was a mixture of young families, and old farts like myself. Lots of belly laughs from all.

Other movies bring in new people for established roles-James Bond, Batman and Superman are just a few-so why not the Stooges? And who better than the writing/directing team of the Farrelly Brothers-the guys most famous for the slapstick filled “Something About Mary”.

I know the idea is sacrilegious to some, but the Farrelly Brothers mostly succeed. All the actors, including the pre-teen versions of our knuckleheads, are spot-on in their characterizations. It’s especially fun to watch the younger lame brains. From the cadence of their voices, to their stances, to their distinctive facial expressions and actions, they all bring back strong memories of the original Stooges. Even the sound effects are right on the money. The plot is lifted right from some old episodes-so don’t go in expecting a deep story. Larry, Moe and Curly need to raise money to save an orphanage, and along the way get pulled involuntarily into a plot to knock off the husband of a money hungry wife. The main update to the familiar scenario is that the Stooges we know and love exist not in the 1930’s or 40’s-but in 2012. Other than part of the last act, and a couple of earlier bits, the filmmakers don’t play enough with the absurdity of the Stooges being around in today’s society. Nobody seems to notice that they look, sound and act like they stepped right out of the 1930’s.

But that’s o.k. This film is a living, breathing homage to the original Stooges, and includes all the types of bits we grew to love-the play on words, the wacky sight gags, the physical humor, the “nyuk, nyuck nyuks” the woobwoobwoobwoobs, Curly spinning on his belly-they’re all here. Even other chestnuts are onscreen like the funny names of firms-remember the law firm of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe from the original shorts? There’s more of the same in this film.

The biggest weakness is the supporting cast-especially the nuns. They are not allowed to be outrageous enough-especially Larry David, (yup, you heard me-Larry David is a nun), and Jane Lynch. They are not nearly as funny in this movie as they have been in other performances, and are mostly used to forward the plot. But, the supporting cast were never the standouts in the originals either.

The Stooge style of humor is not as fresh or funny as in the initial shorts, but, all in all, this nostalgic yet modern take on one of comedies most enduring teams almost has you believing that the Three Stooges are back in town. Hurray for the Farrelly Brothers having the guts to take on this challenge.

I give the new Stooges an “A” for effort, and the film an overall grade of “B-“. I’m Keith Kelly.

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