2012-04-13

The Three Stooges – A Remake That’s Actually Good

by Yo Snyder

When I heard there was a new Three Stooges movie in the making, I
figured that the Hollywood trend of doing remakes and reboots had
reached a new low. If there’s one thing the modern Pink Panther films
proved is that sometimes genius can’t be recreated, or even properly
imitated. Sometimes its just best to let some things rest as being truly
one-of-a-kind. The original Three Stooges were certainly that. They
were of a type that hadn’t been seen before, and their comedy was
something that hasn’t been done before. A joke is always funniest the
first time, and everything that come after that is just a poor
imitation…usually. There are those rare times when imitation is not
only the sincerest form of flattery, but also rather enjoyable as well. I
have to give credit to the Farrelly brothers, they accomplished the
while nigh impossible of feat of recapturing the fun of the Stooges;
retaining their classic feel while introducing them to a modern
audience. This update isn’t without its share of missteps, but overall, The Three Stooges
is exactly what most remakes try to be but generally fail to be; a good
reminder of a great classic that’s also fun in its own right.

Two things contribute to The Three Stooges
being a successful and fun update/remake. First, the performances. Sean
Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulos perfectly embody the
characters of Larry, Curly and Moe respectively. It’s obvious they did a
lot of research and carefully studied the mannerisms and inflections of
the three originals (of course, just about every kid whose ever seen
the Stooges has imitated the “nyuk, nyuks” and the “soitenlys”). There
wasn’t ever a point where I felt like these guys weren’t the Stooges. I
mean sure, it’s not quite the same as the originals, but this
comes pretty close. One scene in particular, about half way through the
movie, where the slaps and pokes and gags fly fast and furious could
almost be mistaken for the original routine if it weren’t for the fact
that it was in color. The other element is the writing. Not just of the
gags and pratfalls, but the puns and dialogue of everyone around the
Stooges. The fact of the matter is the Stooges live in a cartoon world;
like some Tex Avery toon with live actors. That’s just as true of
everyone around the Stooges. Sure, they’re supposed to be the “real”
people, but they all live in that cartoonish world and need to properly
written to reflect that. The Farrelly’s captured just the right tone not
only with the leads, but everyone around them and the world they live
in. Sofia Vergara has a particularly fun role that at times impressed me
with just how much she was willing to commit to this zany world of the
Stooges. Good for her, because that helps make the whole thing more fun.
Heck, the movie does a pretty good job of pointing out we’re not far
off from the “cartoon reality” of the Stooges with a clever inclusion
of, and I can’t even believe I’m even saying this, the Jersey Shore
cast. If those people aren’t toon caricatures living in a “real” world, I
don’t know who is, and it’s quite the kick to see them encounter the
comedy of another era. 

But that’s just the thing, the Stooges
really do belong to another era. That becomes quite evident with a few
of the gags that just don’t work, including a very Farrelly-esque
sequence with peeing babies that just isn’t as funny as it thinks it is,
nor does it feel very “Stoogey” when the rest film does such a good job
of doing so. Then there’s the whole nun thing. There’s been a lot of
talk about how the nuns and the Catholic church comes off in this movie,
and I can see why some would be concerned. Some of those characters
aren’t really presented in the best light; particularly Larry David’s
portrayal of one of the sisters. Then again, I almost think that
character had to be someone like Larry David because it would have
seemed really cruel and vindictive and less of a caricature had it been
portrayed by a woman. The rest of the sisters come off as more
believable in their roles as people with genuine faith and caring hearts
for the orphans under their charge, but who also struggle with how
challenging some of them (try to guess which ones) can be. In truth, it
seemed to me the movie just didn’t quite know how to handle these
characters of faith. They are often sweet and caring and kind and good
people, but then the movie seems to feel like it can’t quite accept that
people of faith should come of as just genuinely good and decent, and
so it throws in a little…something, to tweak with that image, to make
them part of the joke, or to add a little critique. It’s like the movie
wants to acknowledge them as just great people with genuine faith, but
can’t quite allow itself to do so for some reason. So while I do
understand why some are upset about it, the interesting thing is, I also
noticed the struggle at times to reconcile a more cynical view with the
fact that, perhaps, people of faith aren’t that bad after all and can
be portrayed in a genuinely positive light.

The really interesting
thing will be to see how a new generation reacts to this decidedly “old
school” form of comedy. Is there room for the Stooges in today’s modern
world? Do we have a place for pure slapstick, wacky shenanigans, silly
puns and just good, clean humor? One scene in particular shows this
clash between the old and new, with the new looking as the Stooges in
disbelief and writing them off as, “Man, you’re crazy.” That’s exactly
what many today may think of the Stooges, but then again, perhaps it’s
fresh enough that this classic joke will be something entirely new, and
enjoyable, for another generation. As a fan of the classics I was dead
set against liking this movie going into it. Yet, it does such a good
job of capturing the right spirit, the right tone, the right gags, even
the right sounds and music that I couldn’t help but smile through the
whole thing. It’s not as gut-bustingly funny as the first time I saw
them, but I still laughed, and I grinned through the whole thing. The
Farrelly’s “get it”, and they treated this remake with the right amount
of respect for the original, not messing much with the formula, not
worrying about it seeming too vintage or classic for the modern era, but
just letting the Stooges be exactly who they’ve always been; and that’s
what makes them fun. They don’t need a “modern makeover”, their schtick
is still funny and fun just the way it is.

Score: 5 of 7