'Stooges' proves you can't modernize a comedy classic

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Entertainment,Movies,Kelly Jane Torrance

We've been waiting more than a decade for "The Three Stooges."

That's not really true, of course. But the Farrelly brothers waited almost a decade to make it. They completed the script in 2002. Then they ran into particular trouble casting the movie, even by Hollywood lost-in-production-hell standards.

Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn, Jim Carrey, Hank Azaria, Johnny Knoxville and Andy Samberg were all, at one point, either cast in the film or being considered for the cast. But the Farrelly brothers ended up with the lesser-known Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry) and Will Sasso (Curly) playing the legendary comedy trio who officially became The Three Stooges in 1934.

On screen
'The Three Stooges'
1.5 out of 4 stars
Stars: Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Chris Diamantopoulos
Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Rated: PG for slapstick action violence, some rude and suggestive humor including language
Running time: 92 minutes

The Farrellys have taken the slapstick characters and plunked them into the present day. The three men have the same accents and haircuts as the originals -- but they simply aren't as funny.

It's not the fault of the actors. They do pitch-perfect imitations. But most of the Stooges' work was done in short films. Their distinctive brand of silly, physical humor doesn't work well played over an hour and a half of linear narrative.

It's not clear why the Stooges needed to be updated in the first place. That comedic style is, after all, timeless. This film, with its juvenile jokes and warmed-off slapstick is painfully stupid. I found myself wondering partway through for whom it was made -- 7-year-olds?

A look at the movie's rating -- PG -- indicates I wasn't far off. But the Stooges leave the only home they've ever known, an orphanage, when it's in danger of being closed due to lack of funds and find themselves conned into being guns for hire by a beautiful woman (Sofia Vergara) who wants to off her husband for his money. That's not exactly a family-friendly plot.

It's not clear how television star Vergara settled on this for a feature film role. The same goes for Larry David; the "Seinfeld" creator plays a nun with the purposely unfortunate name of Sister Mary-Mengele. None of the nuns age as the film shows the trio dropped in a bag on the orphanage porch as babies and then as adults. Jane Lynch is a suitably warm but no-nonsense Mother Superior, while Jennifer Hudson plays a Catholic nun given a gospel song to sing for no other reason than that the character is played by Jennifer Hudson.

"You can't let them close us down, Mother. This is our home," is one example of the unironically dopey dialogue. Things get a little more interesting when the trio finds itself divided and Moe becomes a star on "The Jersey Shore." But there's no modernizing "The Three Stooges." You can't replicate a comedy classic.

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Kelly Jane Torrance

Washington Examiner Movie Critic
The Washington Examiner