Somehow I convinced myself going into The Three Stooges that there existed a distinct possibility that the movie would be more akin to the passable Marx Brothers homage Brain Donors (1992) than… well… the movie that Twentieth Century Fox was advertising. And somehow, clinging perhaps to fond memories of Kingpin (1996), I also thought that the Farrelly Brothers might redeem themselves after last year’s thoroughly despicable Hall Pass. I cannot say for certain how these notions crept into my head, but they were there all right and they were dead wrong. Because ultimately I found the overall experience of The Three Stooges wholly unlike either Brain Donors or Kingpin, offering instead one of the single most mind-numbingly insufferable cinematic experiences I’ve come across in quite some time.
Let’s get this straight right off the bat. The film’s failure has very little to do with the performers cast as the Stooges, something about which I knew many were upset. Chris Diamantopoulos isn’t terrible as Moe and the film doesn’t even feature the most irksome appearance of Will Sasso I’ve ever encountered. (That distinction goes to either WCW or the Doctor Who TV movie.) And I actually found Sean Hayes as Larry to be quite enjoyable. Additionally, the film features Larry David (as a nun), Jane Lynch (as a nun), and Jennifer Hudson (also as a nun).
The real failure of the film is in the writing. The Farrelly Brothers and co-writer Mike Cerrone resurrected a half dozen or so tired scenarios for The Three Stooges and haphazardly cobbled them together in an apparent effort to tell no story whatsoever. The result is an absolute narrative mess. Larry, Moe and Curly attempt to raise the $830,000 needed to save the orphanage where they grew up and somehow Moe winds up on Jersey Shore (no, seriously). They also get wrapped up in some bullshit subplot in which a woman plots her husband’s murder that only tangentially has anything to do with anything at all. Allying the trio with orphans as the Farrellys and Cerrone do, I surmise, represents their attempt at endearing audiences to the Stooges, but there are characters to whom we were never supposed to be endeared in the first place. They aren’t supposed to be great guys.
Moreover, in the telling of their slapdash tale, the Farrelly’s apparently failed to consider whether the film would ever appeal to adults or if it was even appropriate for kids. I suppose they intended the picture for children, though, as the film concludes with a message for children in the audience about not poking each other in the eyes or hitting each other with hammers. Of course, they might have also mentioned that people cannot engage in baby pee fights by squeezing newborns really hard at one another, big breasts don’t make car horn noises when stepped on, and placing peanuts in various animals’ various orifices is generally cruel and frowned upon. (Larry and Curly shoot a peanut out of a dolphin’s blowhole and into a lion’s butt, for the record.)
Yes, these things happen in the film. I suppose the filmmakers intended them to be funny, but Christ is it painful to watch! And as if it’s not enough that a person would be subjected to an hour and a half of this torment, the deep hurting persists all the way through the end credits, which features a Three Stooges theme song and an unbearable music video in which the Stooges and Hudson perform Stevie Wonder’s “It’s a Shame.” This is not to say that the film is entirely bereft of actual humor, of course. In fact, I laughed twice.
The Three Stooges is now available in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Special features on this release include deleted/extended scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, featurettes about the sound effects and casting, a Three Stooges mash-up, an original screen test, and “What’s the Big Idea: A History of The Three Stooges,” which is unarguably the single greatest piece on this release, the film included.