Fifty years after Moe, Curly and Larry’s heyday as stars of vaudeville and 190 short films, the Farrelly brothers bring the Stooges back on screen to shake off critical condescension and prove that this particular variant on popular comedy bears feature-film-length scrutiny in a present-day setting.
After the boys are dropped off at the orphanage whilst still at a deceptively endearing age, a series of disastrous encounters with sister Mary-Mengele (a well-placed Larry David), aka Attila the Nun, proves prophetic.
The orphanage fails to get the trio of trouble adopted, in part because they refuse to be split up. Their antics cost money. By the time they’re in long trousers, the orphanage is on its last legs and Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), Curly (Will Sasso) and Larry (Sean Hayes) must set out to save it. Thwarting the planned murder of a former fellow orphan and a well-timed appearance on a reality show do the trick.
It’s flimsy, no question, but at some stage, the contortionist slapping, tweaking, pulling, butting and banging develops a mesmerising momentum all of its own as a consistent exploration of the physicality of slapstick. At 92 minutes, however, it’s unlikely to encourage a genre revival and for that reason it will remain a lesson in the tools (and rules) of dusting off this old hat.
The Three Stooges | Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly (USA 2012) with Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sasso, Sean Hayes, Larry David, Sofia Vergara. Starts October 11