Note: Originally published in the TV Guide of The Marshall Independent.
I suppose I’m dating myself, but I can remember when you could expect to run into The Three Stooges pretty much daily on your black and white TV.
The Stooges started as a vaudeville act in 1925, composed of two brothers of Lithuanian Jewish origin, Moses and Samuel Horwitz, a.k.a. Moe and Shemp Howard, and friend Louis Feinberg or “Larry Fine,” scion of a Russian Jewish family.
If you find that surprising, did you know Larry was an amateur boxer and a talented violinist?
Shemp later left to pursue a solo career, and was replaced by another brother Jerome, who wanted into the act so badly he shaved his long flowing locks to become “Curly.” After Curly suffered a stroke in 1946, Shemp rejoined the team until his own death in 1955.
Shemp was replaced by Curly look-alike Joe Besser, and later by Joe DeRita as “Curly Joe.”
Altogether the Stooges made 220 films, most of them shorts that played alongside feature films in movie theaters.
Their humor was noted for broad slapstick, violent and often cruel. But there was also an “us against the world” solidarity, and a lot of clever wordplay. Such as when you see the Stooges outside the law office of “Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe.”
Now after 10 years in the making, mostly spent looking for the ideal cast, the new Three Stooges has arrived, featuring Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe, Sean Hayes as Larry, and Will Sasso as Curly.
Briefly, the trio are on a quest to save the orphanage they were raised in, to the ruin of the institution and the despair of the nuns that run it. They have a month to raise $830,000. They get involved in the machinations of would-be black widow Lydia (Sofia Vergara,) who wants them to murder her husband Teddy (Kirby Heyborne,) who turns out to be an fellow alumnus of the orphanage.
So how does it stack up to the original gang?
In a word – uncanny. These guys have got the Stooges down. The voices, the mannerisms, even Curly’s “nyuk-nyuk-nyuk-nyuk” and “woo-woo-woo-woo.”
The resemblance is so strong it sometimes makes one uncomfortable to see it’s not the original Three Stooges after all.
All of the trademark slapstick tropes are there. They only one they seem to have missed is the board-over-the-shoulder-and-abruptly-turning-around, but perhaps I blinked and missed it.
Of course my 10-year-old son laughed all the way through it.
So how is it different from the original Stooges?
Well as you might expect in this day and age, it’s bawdier and a little crude in spots.
Sofia Vergara displays a generous amount of cleavage, and uses it for comic effect. The original Stooges did the lobster-attaching-itself-to-the-face thing, but wouldn’t have stuffed it down someone’s pants.
Moe gets invited to join the cast of “Jersey Shore” to slap the cast around, and who wouldn’t like to see that?
And did I mention the fart joke?
All of that probably won’t raise many eyebrows, but there’s the Catholic thing.
Catholic League President Bill Donohue commented, “The Stooges are depicted seeking to raise money for their orphanage; it is run by habit-wearing, stereotypical nuns. One of the sisters is played by swimsuit model Kate Upton; she is shown wearing a “nun bikini” with a large rosary around her neck. Another nun, Sister Mary-Mengele, named after the Nazi war criminal, is played by Seinfeld creator Larry David.”
I’m not Catholic, but it irritates me to see Hollywood congratulating itself for its courage in fighting a battle that was won a long time ago. The Legion of Decency has been moribund for a long time folks, get over it.
And there’s a scene where Lydia is reading the conservative magazine “The Weekly Standard” in bed. Subtle – NOT.
There’s a nod to social responsibility at the end where the makers explain how the stunts are done and caution kids about the eye poke and hitting people on the head with hammers.
Oh come on! Was there ever a verifiable case where anybody was actually harmed imitating the Stooges? Give the kids’ intelligence a little credit guys.