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Movie Review

The Three Stooges

Farrellys’ ‘Stooges’ much better than a poke in the eye

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By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / April 13, 2012
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No, I don’t know why Bobby and Peter Farrelly bothered with a Three Stooges movie, either. But if they’re anything like some men I know, their love for Moe, Larry, and Curly (and an assortment of fourth bananas) is deep, abiding, and unembarrassable. In other words: How could the Farrellys not? It pleases me to report that the movie is far from a disaster – on a dozen or so occasions, it’s even funny. I write that as someone who spent many a Sunday morning trying to decode the humor embedded in reruns and deciding the nyuk-nyuks-nyuks and “why I oughttas’’ were for a different child.

None of this is quite the same as saying the movie is essential or even that it’s good. But it is alive with its directors’ spirit and performed with the kind of abandon required for, say, water fights featuring urinating babies or having a rat nestled in your bosom. All the Farrellys have done, with the assistance of a co-writer, Mike Cerrone, is resuscituate the Stooges in the time of the iPhone and Sofia Vergara (she of the aforementioned ratted bosom).

As tykes, the Stooges are tossed at the door of an orphanage, ready-coiffed with their trademark haircuts – an inky bowl for Moe, ebbing clown curls for Larry, and next-to-nothing for Curly. As adult tykes, they wander around what appears to be Atlanta trying to raise the $830,000 to save the orphanage. It’s all over in about 90 minutes, during which many corny puns are tossed at a wall and mostly stick. The Farrellys’ films often make overtures to smart, tight plotting (if they could bring a movie in at 75 minutes, they’d be lethal). This time, the Stooges’s quest for the money intersects with some film-noirish intrigue involving Vergara, her lover (Craig Bierko), and their scheme to kill her rich husband.

The actors playing Moe, Larry, and Curly – Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, and Will Sasso – perform all the wordplay and Teflon slapstick: the card-shuffle face smacks, the boinks to the head, and pokes in the eye. Their bond always seemed like a matter of cosmic conjoining. They looked like they hated being stuck with each other. The movie argues for brotherly love – now they’re a hopeless fraternity. In the Farrellys’ version, you can see all the work (Diamantopoulos and Sasso often appear to be sweating), but all the punching and pounding and toppling and screaming achieve a pleasing physical musicality. (The prospect of resurrecting these three must be a minor dream come true for some sound crews.) That musicality extends to the rest of the cast, which includes Jane Lynch, a lost-looking Jennifer Hudson, and an inspired Larry David, all as nuns.

A Farrelly brothers film often finds trouble when it goes rooting around popular culture for gags. There can be a kind of staleness to their cynicism. Lampoons can turn them curmudgeonly. In this film, they mean all those broad, toothless jokes and the highly orchestrated bodily harm. But when the cast of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” finds itself mixed up in this, things verge on farrago. Seeing Moe give eye-pokes and forehead-smacks to Snooki and J-Wow feels close to desperate. It’s also useful to remember that Bobby and Peter Farrelly are smart and generous. They’re not mocking “Jersey Shore,” per se. They’re making a cultural argument. They’re saying that regardless of the century, they know a bunch of stooges when they see them.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @wesley_morris.

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**1/2

THE THREE STOOGES

Directed by: Bobby and Peter Farrelly

Written by: the Farrellys and Mike Cerrone

Starring: Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Sofia Vergara, Craig Bierko, Larry David, Jennifer Hudson, and Jane Lynch

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 92 minutes

PG (slapstick action violence, some rude and suggestive humor including language and a strategically placed rodent)

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