The Three Stooges ✮✮

The Yokes on Us

by Glenn Lovell

Did you ever think we’d see the day when a Farrelly brothers farce would come with a “Don’t try this at home” PSA for the kiddies? You’ll find one attached to Bobby and Peter’s “The Three Stooges,” which, thanks to its PG rating, has been shrewdly marketed to 6- to 12-year-olds. That’s right, this is the Farrellys on their best behavior, plying semi-naughty wordplays and harmless slapstick instead of their usual toilet humor and sex jokes.

The PG Stooges: Don't try this at home!

And ‒ surprise, surprise! ‒ the Farrellys almost pull it off. Their tribute to Larry, Curly and Moe ‒ those bad boys of the banana-peel brigade ‒ is by no means classic comedy. It is, however, fitfully amusing. And if opening day response is any indication, the Farrellys have scored a hit with the milk-and-cookies set that probably won’t do gangbuster business in its theatrical run, but should clean up when it reaches PPV and DVD.

As for this ‒ yes, I admit it! ‒ dyed-in-the-wool Stooges fan, I found myself chucking twice and smiling maybe three times. I dare you not to laugh when the boys descend on a visiting monsignor they mistake for a dirty old man and, later, when they hold a pee-shooting battle in a hospital maternity ward.

We certainly can’t quibble with the casting: Will Sasso makes a wonderfully bossy, sneer-worthy Moe; Sean Hayes is an inspired choice for the frizzy-haired middle-man, Larry; and Chris Diamantopoulos woop-woop-woops with the best of ’em as everybody’s favorite dunce, Curly. These guys are so close to the originals, for long stretches I actually thought I was watching the threesome digitally resurrected.

Though the Stooges appeared in a handful of features ‒ who can forget, or forgive, “Have Rocket Will Travel”? ‒ they’re known mainly for their 1930s – ’40s comedy shorts. It makes sense, then, that the Farrellys and co-writer Mike Cerrone have structured their tribute as three interlocking episodes, each introduced by a cute title card (“Episode 2: The Bananas Split”) and the Stooges theme song, “Three Blind Mice.”

Episode 1, “More Orphan Than Not,” is set in Sisters of Mercy Orphanage, run by Mother Superior (a pleasantly deadpan Jane Lynch) and Sister Mary-Mengele (Larry David in drag). Thanks to the trio’s costly high-jinks, the orphanage is on the verge of bankruptcy. Episode 2 unleashes the numbskulls on the world as they contract out to a scheming wife (Sofia Vergara) looking to put her ailing hubby out of his misery. In the final episode, the Stooges, short one member ‒ Dyna-Moe defects to reality-TV as the newest member of “Jersey Shore” ‒ reunite just in time to wreak havoc on a ritzy party, nail the bad guys, and save the orphanage.

Yes, it’s one messy concoction.  But what did you expect ‒ Preston Sturges with a laughtrack? My advice: Forget about the patch-quilt plot, embarrassing cameos (by Snooki, The Situation) and chintzy backlot sets, and concentrate on the slapstick routines lifted from the original series. Per the formula, body hair is yanked out by its roots and chainsaws prove no match for Curly’s steel-plate noggin. Lest little Sally and Bobby try out the bludgeoning and eye pokes at home, a couple of Farrely standins show up at the end to explain how it’s all sound effects and rubber mallets.

Really, guys? For us diehard fans, this is like saying professional wrestling is faked. It takes the WAM! out of the body slams.

THE THREE STOOGES ✮✮ Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Chris Diamantopoulos, Jane Lynch, Sofia Vergara, Stephen Collins, Larry David, Jennifer Hudson. Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly; scripted by Mike Cerrone and the Farrellys. 92 min. PG (for injury-free violence, some naughty humor)

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