The life of a Stooge isn't easy. You can never be sure when somebody might call you an imbecile and poke you in the eye, or smack you upside the head with some nearby frying pan or sledgehammer. But a pal's a pal, right? And Moe, Larry and Curly, well, they've been Stoogie friends forever.
I mean, from the day when they were all wrapped up in a duffle bag as tykes and dropped like a sack of dirty laundry on the steps of a Catholic orphanage, they've been three peas in a pod. Why, even the prospect of adoption couldn't pull these guys apart. When a young couple came along looking for a son and chose Moe—back when the boys were about 10—he pleaded with his new mom and dad to take Larry and Curly too. They didn't like that idea much, so they just picked a different kid altogether. Moe didn't mind. At least he and the guys weren't separated.
Now, after 30-some years living in the orphanage, they've got a new reason to stand united. Their destructive antics have, well, run up quite a steep bill. And the church might have to shut the facility down and send the kids away. All the Stooges can say to that is "Nyahhh-ah-ah!" Looks like it's up to these three goofy buds to venture into the city and raise some cash. Quick.
Hey, they only need a mere $830,000! That'll be a cinch. There's bound to be something three genius types can do to save the day, right? Soitenly! Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.
For all of the Stooges' name-calling and painful bashing of each other, it's always clear that they gain a great deal from their friendship. In fact, after a situation breaks up the team, they all have a pretty tough time of it. It's only after apologies are spoken and forgiveness is given that they start functioning "normally" again. And we can't give short shrift to the trio's dedication to saving the orphanage. This isn't a live-and-let-die kind of team. It's a poke-you-in-the-eye-for-a-good-cause group. A nun says she believes the Stooges are "pure of heart." And we do see a certain guile-free innocence and earnest desire to do good for others in every scheme and plan the guys attempt.
The sisters at the church, for the most part, are shown to be kind and caring. Mother Superior is consistently loving and welcoming to her three destructive charges.
When the boys first land at the Sisters of Mercy Orphanage a nun coos, "They're like the holy Trinity." And later when the now-older trio sets off to raise money, another sister says, "Like Moses in the desert, I believe God will guide them."
One woman always sports formfitting dresses or shirts. She's dripping wet in a scene. And we also see her in lingerie. Curly's pet rat crawls down her front. A number of other women wear low-cut outfits as well. Even one of the nuns shows up at a pool party wearing a wimple … and a very revealing bikini-like swimsuit.
A male hospital attendant flirts with Curly who's wearing a nurse's dress as a disguise.
"That huuuurts!" And well it should. There's enough battering, poking and thumping on film here to fill at least a hundred regular slapstick comedies. Head bonks, eye gouges, hammer-to-the-forehead pummels, full-body crushes off rooftops, armpit hair rips, nose hair plucks, crowbar-to-the-chin smashes. There's no bloody mess, but it still looks painful. Make that Painful! And each bing-bang-bonk is accompanied by just the right stereophonic plink, blatt or twang to give things a comedic ring.
Moe runs a whirling chain saw along Curly's cranium. Curly accidentally bumps a guy into the street where he's hit by a bus, snagged and scrubbed along the roadway by a street sweeper, hopped on by a kid with a pogo stick and impaled by an arrow—that Larry had launched into the air earlier. A man accidentally steps on a woman's face and breast while climbing over a fence.
The Stooges manhandle guys hospitalized in full-body casts, sticking dynamite inside the cast of one. When a hospital guard is knocked out, Moe calls for crash cart paddles to revive him. But Larry hands him two hot clothes irons that he proceeds to plant on the guy's bare chest. Larry plugs the airhole of a dolphin with a peanut, causing the animal to gasp for air. When Curly gives the marine mammal the Heimlich maneuver, the peanut shoots out like a bullet and careens off the scrotum of a nearby lion, causing that animal to fly into a rage. We later see a guy's face decorated with a claw mark.
There's lots and lots and lots and lots more. Just like in the old days, the Stooges pound on a guy playing a nun. And then, with a modern twist, on the set of the MTV reality show Jersey Shore, Moe slaps and bonks the cast repeatedly (which, maybe they actually deserve). He slams a microwave down over one guy's head, hitting the on switch and causing the guy's eyes to bulge and grow bloodshot.
A plotting woman and her boyfriend convince the dimwitted Stooges that they should perform a "mercy killing" on her terminally ill husband. They unwittingly go along with the plot—though all their destructive attempts are actually aimed at the boyfriend.
Crude or Profane Language
A nun gasps out an unfinished "What the …?" And somebody calls out an exasperated "god!" Moe labels his friends "knuckleheads," "grubworms" and "nitwits."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Party guests drink wine, beer and champagne. Curly slurps directly from a champagne fountain. One of the Jersey Shore-ites wears a Guinness hat. When Curly hears that some kids may be put in foster homes, he wonders, "Fosters? That's Australian for beer, right?"
Larry tries to sell a "smoked salmon"—which is actually a fish with a cigar in its mouth. A friend of the Stooges is a little woozy after being drugged.
Other Negative Elements
While changing a roomful of babies' diapers, the Stooges start spraying each other in the chest, head and face with gushing streams of the tykes' urine. (The origin points of the many streams remain out of the frame.) Moe shoves a live lobster down the front of Larry's pants, causing him to—after a snapping crunch—sing like a soprano.
The Stooges and several other people are trapped under water in a sinking car. As they cluster together, gasping for the last remaining air, Curly passes gas, which bubbles up—to everyone's chagrin. Larry solves the "problem" by pulling out a waterproof match and … causing an explosion.
These three Stooges are really, really violent. But that's soitenly no secret, right? We all know well in advance that if you're going to watch the Stooges—whether in new updated form or classic original—you're going to be hit with a cornucopia of slapstick shenanigans.
I cut my entertainment teeth, way back when, on the head thumping and eye poking of that famous tumultuary trio. So I walked into this new Stooge flick knowing a few things about nyuk-nyuks and around-the-world head bonks.
I walked out with a sense that the new guys did a great job of capturing the unbound energy, the look and sound, and the all-around frenetic insanity that makes up a Stooge. But also with some pretty nostalgic thoughts floating around about the original Moe, Larry and Curly.
So here's my own two nyuks' worth:
1) It's really hard to live up to an original. The Three Stooges were beloved for their crazy pratfalling shtick partly because no one else before them had done it quite like they did. They also operated in a day when the black-and-white presentation of their mindless "torture" didn't feel quite as realistically visceral as it might now. Today's imitators, as good as they are, can't always seem to make the same stuff feel funny. And because they're just mimicking antics, not birthing them, they often try too hard. That's why some of this new flick's romps—such as the scene featuring infants spouting fire hose-strength urine streams—come off as distasteful overreaches.
2) A little Stooging goes a looooong way. There's an old saying that reads, "Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food." And that concept can easily apply here too. I mean, there's a good reason why The Three Stooges black-and-white shorts were, well, short. This stuff only really works in small doses. There's one incredibly choreographed moment in this flick when all three Stooges unleash on each other with a slapfoonery onslaught that really is a marvel to watch. The problem is that it comes at about an hour into the pic, and by then we're almost numb.
And that brings me back to my comment about the violence. I remember a time when I thought the original Curly flying into a windmilling punch-drunk frenzy every time he heard "Pop Goes the Weasel" was slapstick comedic gold. It was also, though, the kind of stuff that we kids of that age would never really try ourselves. I mean, getting a crowbar in the kisser would hurt, guy! But now that I'm an adult living in the age of crazy teen YouTube videos and Jacka‑‑ movies, I worry more. I fret over how an hour and a half of this kind of chaotic carnage might impact a young viewer.
As it turns out, the movie's co-directors, Bobby and Peter Farrelly (best known for their gross-out comedies Dumb and Dumber; There's Something About Mary; and Me, Myself & Irene), had that on their minds too. Just before the credits roll, they appear onscreen with a couple of rubber bludgeons to point out that all is not what it seems. They encourage youthful viewers to "please play safe at home."
Maybe that's enough. Or maybe you should still stock up on the bubble wrap.