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Review: The Three Stooges (2012)

The Three Stooges (2012)

Directed by: Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly

Premise: Larry, Curly, and Moe (Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulos) attempt to raise money to save an orphanage.

What Works: When filmmakers adapt characters or film genres, the general rule is that the filmmakers must make it new. For example, the various incarnations of Batman by Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher, and Christopher Nolan have their own distinct stamp that makes each work unique. Adaptations fueled by nostalgia, such as Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark or Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, take filmmaking genres of the past and reformat them, retaining the flavor of the original while using contemporary storytelling and motion picture techniques. The 2012 version of The Three Stooges is not really an adaptation in this sense. Instead, The Farrelly Brothers have sought to recreate the short films that the Three Stooges produced between the 1930s and 1960s and the filmmakers accomplish that. Actors Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulos have been cast in the roles previously played by Larry Fine, Curly Howard, and Moe Howard. The newer actors essentially do an imitation of the original performers but they do it well and create a facsimile of their predecessor’s characters. The new Three Stooges film also reproduces the style of the original short films in its comic style with fast paced dialogue and the outrageous physical comedy as well as in the film’s format, breaking the feature into three segments, each beginning with title graphics reminiscent of the original shorts. Given what the filmmakers have attempted to do in this picture, the extent to which they succeed is admirable. And whatever else is to be said about it, this new film is very funny. The gags and puns come steadily, many of them stupid but in the right way. The humor may be limited in its appeal to preteen boys and Three Stooges enthusiasts, but that was the audience of the original films as well.

What Doesn’t: As a remake, the new Three Stooges movie faces an inherent obstacle that it never really overcomes. This film transplants characters and a comedic style from a previous era into the present day and the whole film has an anachronistic quality about it. The 2012 remake of The Three Stooges is a tribute act, and watching this film is like going to see an Elvis impersonator. The performers do a very good job of recreating the style of the original entertainers but the viewer is always aware that he or she is watching an imitation rather than the real thing. Unlike a live musical performance, which is experientially different from listening to tracks of an audio player or even watching a concert film, a cinematic tribute is always dogged by the feeling that the same experience could be had (and possibly better) by just watching the original source.

Bottom Line: As an adaption The Three Stooges is problematic but the movie is also good, silly fun. Very young viewers will find a lot to crack up at and Three Stooges fans ought to appreciate the attempt to honor the original actors.

Episode: #385 (April 22, 2012)