Film review | The Three Stooges – About as funny as a poke in the eye

THE THREE STOOGES - Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso as Moe, Larry & Curly

The Farrelly Brothers, present-day purveyors of crude lowbrow comedy, pay tribute to knuckleheaded forbears The Three Stooges with this affectionate homage to the vaudeville trio whose rowdy slapstick antics set a mark for violent physical buffoonery in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

What the Farrellys have served up isn’t a biopic of prize numbskulls Moe, Larry and Curly, an obvious path to take. Instead, they’ve thrust the Stooges into a modern setting while keeping their raucous sensibility intact.

The story, a distinctly ramshackle affair divided into three episodes, has the threesome growing up in a Catholic orphanage run by nuns – Jane Lynch is the Mother Superior, a crabby Larry David in drag is Sister Mary-Mengele and swimsuit model Kate Upton is the voluptuous Sister Bernice.

THE THREE STOOGES - Kate Upton & Jane Lynch as Sister Bernice and Mother Superior

As barely grown-up adults, they venture into the wider world in a bid to raise the $830,000 needed to save the orphanage from closing down. Naturally, their nitwit schemes come to nothing until a busty femme fatale (Sofía Vergara) offers them the money if they will carry out the ‘mercy killing’ of her supposedly terminally ill husband. The story barely holds together but it does allow for all the eye pokes, face slaps, nose tweaks and idiotic nyuk-nyuk-nyuks the most devoted Stooges fan could possibly desire.

Playing irascible ringleader Moe, frizzy-haired Larry and dopey gentle giant Curly, Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso brilliantly pull off the Stooges’ demented slapstick. You can’t imagine the routines being done better – the Farrellys’ original cast of Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn and Jim Carrey would certainly have been very hard pressed to match the slickly choreographed mayhem here.

But there’s only so much eye poking and face slapping you can possibly take. A little of the original Stooges goes a long way, even when confined to two-reel shorts. At feature-length, their successors definitely outstay their welcome.

On general release from Wednesday 22nd August.

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