There’s a special place in most American hearts for slapstick comedy trio The Three Stooges, a Twenties vaudeville act that broke Hollywood in the Thirties, surviving multiple ups-and-downs and changes of line up until the last of them croaked in the Seventies. Leaving behind some 220 stupid movies, most of which were shorts, the lads lacked wit and subtlety, depth and intelligence, yet remain beloved in the States beyond the likes of even The Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy.
Sacrificing everything for a runaway procession of lowbrow, quickfire gags, The Three Stooges remain the premier U.S. poster boys for guilty viewing pleasures. In the UK, though, not so much. Not at all, actually. I’d even go so far as to suggest that most folks on this side of Atlantic have never even heard of the crass comedy stylings of Larry, Curly and Moe.
Me, I’m only aware of them because Mel Gibson’s boozy, borderline-suicidal psycho cop character in the Lethal Weapon movies watches The Three Stooges in his ramshackle trailer when he’s not out wasting bad guys. When I gave them a chance myself, first during a rare British screening of a Stooges short, and more recently on YouTube, I found them insufferably dumb. Unwatchable, to be honest. I guess it’s just something you have to grow up with.
Anyhoo, grossout directing duo the Farrelly Brothers clearly have a great deal more affection for the guys as their latest effort is good-natured tribute flick…
…a film I did not expect to like at all but one that very slowly won me over.
In a nutshell, the boys are dumb, dumber and dumbest. They break stuff. Fall over a lot. Get chased by angry guards, through hospitals, zoos and the like. Though anyone trapped in the lads’ orbit clearly cruises for comedy bruises, the choicest physical punishment they reserve for one another, poking eyes, slapping faces and bonking heads with the vigour of feral kids and the sound effects of vintage ‘toons.
Wisely dividing a near plotless excuse for slapstick comedy violence into three linked shorts, the Farrelly’s crack out the gags at an alarming rate, as gleefully good-natured as they are profoundly brainless. At the charismatic centre of the chaos, delivering what I’m told are flawless impersonations of the Stooges, Will & Grace star Sean Hayes plays Larry while the rather less familiar Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos play, respectively, Curly and Moe. Of the familiar and equally enthusiastic supporting cast, Larry David as a grouchy, Stooge-hating nun stands out as particularly, perversely hilarious.
Broad as a bean, winningly daft and packed with eye-watering yet consequence-free cartoon violence, The Three Stooges offers an hour-and-a-half of solid dumb fun. Leave your brains, take your kids, and enjoy.
The Watch (15)
The tale of a disparate quartet of suburban types whose fledgling neighbourhood watch is sorely tested when aliens invade their leafy corner of the world, The Watch stars high-strung imp Ben Stiller, shouty dough-boy Vince Vaughn, the formerly fat Jonah Hill, who traded funny for funny-looking, and bizarre London talent Richard Ayoade, whose movie Submarine confirms he’s really better behind the camera.
Partially written by the folks responsible for Superbad and directed by the guy who made Hot Rod, which you’ve almost certainly never seen, it’s a glossy, by-the-numbers tale of men behaving badly that the cast and crew clearly had a lot of fun making. Sadly their good time comes at the expense of ours, as viewers are saddled with a lamentable flurry of dick jokes and characters so thin they’re Rizlas. Crass to the extreme, it’s makes the far funnier Three Stooges movie seem subtle by comparison.