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The Three Stooges

Chances are, you already have a pretty clear idea of how much a Three Stooges movie starring three present day actors appeals to you. Suggestion: go with your gut. If you are a Stooge purist who is offended by the very idea of a contemporary "revival" of the act, the movie won't change your mind. If you're not at all interested in the original Stooges or their style of comedy, you too should steer clear. But to those of you open to the idea of a Farrelly Brothers-led 90-minute long slapstick sketch and earnest homage to the vaudeville trio, The Three Stooges has a good chance of leaving you satisfied.

Even those in the latter category may not find The Three Stooges all that hilarious — there are a few unavoidable laughs, sure, but not enough to make this comedy a surefire win. The real victory in the film comes in the simple joy of watching the starring team succeed in embodying their eye-poking counterparts. It works to the film's benefit that relative unknowns were cast as Stooges Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos) and Curly (Will Sasso). It is all the easier to envision the Howard brothers in these actors' every surprisingly capable face-slap and nose-twist. Further on this, it is appropriate that the most recognizable of the starring team, Sean Hayes, is cast as Larry: the Stooge with the least defined character. Hayes' natural showmanship makes up for Larry's relative blandness to keep him on par with Moe and Curly in terms of the audience's interests.

The story follows the Stooges' attempts to save the bankrupt orphanage at which they were raised by a group of nuns, played by Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson, Marianne Leone and Larry David in a habit. A strange side note: none of the sisters ever age, despite the three decades that the movie spans (this is never played for comedy, or even addressed — it's just weird). The Stooges' first ever voyage off campus, at age 35, finds them involved in a murder scheme propagated by a vindictive socialite (Sofia Vergara), wreaking unwitting havoc at hospitals, zoos and high society parties, and on the set of Jersey Shore. While the theme of the Stooges' journeys is the odds the world is at with our heroes, we find throughout that the so-called "normal" world itself is just as wacky as the Stooges.

This might be the movie's biggest fault: too much attention paid to the rest of the cast and setting. Thanks to their necessity toward identifying the characters, the Stooges' resilient slapstick routine and shameless array of puns do not ware as repetitive throughout the film. But what gets old almost immediately is everything else: even the usually affable Vergara is dull as the film's primary villain, and her ill-fated sidekick's (Craig Bierko) many physical injuries would be more comically suited with one of the far more entertaining title characters as their victim.

And it all gets surprisingly dark. Moe, Larry and Curly maintain an upbeat charm — though not without straying into some sentimental territories, specifically in regards to Moe — and a general wholesomeness. Vergara's murder ploy, however, becomes shockingly convoluted and gruelingly mean-spirited, as do some of the jokes at the expense of the Stooges' fellow orphans (who, since they are played by actual wide-eyed children, garner our sensitivity far more than three full-grown buffoons who are apparently immune to chainsaw blades.

But luckily, the vast majority of the film's focus is devoted to watching the trio interact and celebrate the goofy comic stylings as invented and immortalized by the originals. And aside from one particularly regrettable scene wherein the Stooges use urine-filled newborn babies as firearms in a free-for-all duel (it is, after all, a Farrelly Brothers movie), the leads maintain an atmosphere of harmless goofball comedy that should resemble the originals' antics to an impressive degree.

Of course, a movie like The Three Stooges will not win everybody over. Chances are, it's only really going to ring true for those who go in already having decided they're into the idea. But for that group, the film will prove successful. They may not be the Moe, Larry and Curly, but they're one heck of a tribute act. That's what the film goes for, and in that, it is quite a victory.