Friday, September 21, 2012

My Worldview Is Shot To Hell. Tomorrow, I'll Probably Discover That I Actually Like Creamed Spinach.


I'll give you fair warning and tell you that this may be as boring as watching paint dry. Some of you may find it amusing and/or useful, but others of you would be just as well-served by sitting down, taking off your shoes, and smashing your toes repeatedly with a hammer.

I am going to write about The Three Stooges. To be more specific, I'm going to write mostly about the 2012 movie The Three Stooges.

(I assume you now have a better idea of whether to continue reading or start hammering your toes. Do whichever seems best.)



The original Moe-Curly-Larry


 The faux 2012 Moe-Curly-Larry

I am quite possibly THE most fanatical of Three Stooges fans. I love them, and that would be ALL of them, not just Moe, Larry, and Curly. I sometimes enjoy Shemp more than I do Curly, even though some fans would find that blasphemous. I enjoy both Joes, which is even more of a reason for some to see me excommunicated from The Church Of The Stooge. I've seen every one of the 190 theatrical-release two-reelers a minimum of twenty times. I've viewed a select few in triple digits. I've seen all of the full-length movies. I've searched out and viewed all of their guest appearances in the movies others made. The bulk of their guest appearances on TV shows have also been seen. I've enjoyed them in their prehistory, as foils for Ted Healy, and in their dotage, as animated characters in cheaply produced cartoons to which they added their voices. I have devoured, to the best of my knowledge, every book ever written about them. I've seen the parodies, the late-night TV sketches, wherein stooge-like characters are put into utterly un-stoogelike scenes (taking/dealing drugs, for instance, as Fridays had them doing), and I've witnessed the occasional commercials in which they (or their likenesses) appeared. I even watched, in its original run, God help me, a Saturday morning cartoon from the 70's entitled The Robonic Stooges that had about as much in common with the original trio as I do with Haile Selassie. In short, there is precious little I don't know about The Three Stooges, their history, their offshoots, their personal lives, and, most especially, their films.

Beyond the above, I defend them like a momma lion defends her cubs. The Stooges are my friends from childhood, and I am, if nothing else, a loyal guy. I may myself criticize some of their stuff (for example, there is one short subject of the 190, Horsing Around, that I will not watch when it makes an appearance on TV. It contains some of the worst gags ever written and I consider it the very weakest of their output.) BUT, if YOU deign to criticize them in any way, you had better bring solid ammunition to the battle. I'm willing to listen to well-thought criticism, but knee-jerk reactions to slapstick will not be suffered gladly.

Likewise, if you decide to make a movie about them, I expect not only the easy stuff to be correct, but also the minor details. There was a 2000 TV biopic that failed miserably in that regard. Not only were the facts played with loose and fast, but easily-researched items central to extended recreations within the film (dialogue used in scenes from their movies, sound effects integral to the comedy, names of secondary characters) were botched. That's just plain sloppy and unforgivable. The actors who had the thankless task of trying to impersonate the boys weren't bad, but the overall production was highly disappointing. I looked forward to a pleasurable lionization of my long-time buddies, but the finished product was utterly inept.

Thus, when news came that a new Three Stooges movie would be made, I cringed.

I cringed even more when I found that it wasn't slated to be a biography, but rather a NEW Three Stooges scripted comedy. Since all of the members of the team were undeniably dead, this seemed highly unlikely (unless it was to be some sort of Zombie Stooge epic.)

In any case, even if it wasn't literal grave robbing, it sure seemed like the figurative sort. I mean, understand what was being discussed: Three present-day actors would be asked to take over the roles created by now-dead actors whose entire lives had been wrapped up in being those characters. Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Jerome "Curly" Howard, had originated their characters, honed them during long years on stage, and pretty much lived them thereafter for forty years (in Moe and Larry's case, at least.) I bristled at the very thought of three other people more-or-less stealing their schtick while the originals could do nothing more than spin like tops in their graves. At the least, it sure seemed tacky to have three living guys pretending to be three dead guys.

I awaited what I assumed would be a desecration. News concerning casting problems, rights acquisition foibles, and other delays, was received with glee. When the film finally did reach the public, I predicted failure (and hoped for it longingly, too.) I did not go to see it. I secretly wished hideous disease and misfortune on The Farrelly Brothers for having besmirched my heroes in such a brazen fashion. I had little doubt that the finished product would be one of the most hare-brained, money-grubbing, disastrous, unsympathetic and audaciously putrid products to ever grace the silver screen.

And I was wrong. Dead wrong.

I saw the movie available on Netflix and I ordered it. As pigheaded as I sometimes am, I still felt I should at least see and prove to myself I was correct in declaring it a ham-handed disaster. It arrived and I put it in the DVD player. I was all set to watch about fifteen minutes of it and then curse everybody associated with it to eternal damnation. If ever there was an audience that fully expected a movie to bomb, it was me. But, you know what? It made me laugh. It made me marvel at the work put into it. And it made me ashamed to have doubted the sincerity of the affection publicly touted, by the Farrelly Brothers, for The Stooges. The love is obvious and sincere.

The execution of the sight gags is superb. The sound effects are spot on. The choreography of the violent slapstick is amazingly good. Lines are quoted from the original films flawlessly. And the actors portraying the characters of Moe, Larry, and Curly did an astounding job. They pulled off a feat I didn't believe possible. They were so good that I found myself forgetting that they were imitating the performances of three other guys I love. I was accepting them, as the characters, on their own terms.

(Specifics: Sean Hayes had the hardest job. Larry Fine is the toughest to nail down vocally. The only other person I've heard do a good Larry Fine impersonation is Billy West, and West is probably the premier voice-actor of our generation. For the most part, Hayes succeeds admirably. Chris Diamantopoulos, as Moe, was a revelation. He absolutely nailed everything about Mr. Howard's gruff leader of the trio. In all honesty, I think his work is Oscar worthy (but, of course, comedic performances win Oscars about as often as Massachusetts voters choose a Republican for President, so no need to worry about that eventuality.)  And, as always, the most open to criticism will be the guy who tries to do Curly Howard. Curly is the easiest to imitate badly - you've no doubt been audience to some untalented schlub giving you a "N'Yuk-N'Yuk-N'Yuk" or a "Woob-Woob-Woob" vocal impersonation at some crappy party or another - but to pull off a credible personalization of the character, with all of the well-known physical mannerisms and vocal deliveries absolutely on-key, is walking a mighty thin high wire. Will Sasso did it. The three of them deserve huge props for their performances. Just freakin' HUGE.)

Now, with all of the verbal fellating I've just given out, I'll tell you that the film isn't 100% without flaw. There is one scene in a hospital maternity ward I would gladly have seen cut (or at least rewritten.) It is the only humor in the film that I believe the original Stooges might have found offensive to have associated with their names. That's just supposition on my part, of course, but I think the film would have been better received critically had it been left out, too, so there's that. The sentimental subplot concerning a couple of orphan children, one of them ill, is somewhat iffy, although I can live with it as a means of humanizing the Stooge characters a bit. And the name given Larry David's nun character is funny, but gratuitous (especially when one considers that all of the original Stooges were Jewish, but so is Larry David and he didn't flinch, so why should I care?)

So, what I'm saying here - and I feel honor bound to do so, since I was all set to croak the movie without having actually seen it - is that you should see it if you haven't already. Even those folks who don't consider themselves Stooge fans may enjoy it. MY WIFE, for whom my stooge addiction is a never-ending trial, actually laughed in spots and seemed to find it generally a benign piece of somewhat violent fluff.

I never expected to like it, but the more I think of it, I think I love it. Wonders, apparently, will never cease.

Soon, with moe better stuff.

24 comments:

Daryl said...

another great post ... xo

Jeni said...

Well, odds are I will never view this -not because of immense dislike of the group and such but more because I rarely watch movies exceot for an occasional foray on TCM for an oldie but goody that I am pretty sure I can manage to stay awake for the entire presentation.It's my inability to stay awake watching movies -regardless of the topic- that generally keeps me from wasting money at the theatres or in renting DVDs either for that matter. I will however pass your review on to my son as he does enjoy watching the Stooges from time to time.

haphazardlife said...

I'd heard of it and like you decided that, nope, you just can't do that. Now I might have to revise my position.

Craig said...

And, as they say in Antarctica, ceases never wonder (at least, that's what you told me. . .)

Thanks for this, Sully. I'm with you - instantly suspicious of any 'modern' Stooge-offering. Now I'll go check it out.

And, uh. . . 'verbal fellating'? Eeeeeewwwww. . .

;)

Craig said...

Oh, and, uh, I'm pretty sure that Massachussetts went for Lincoln. . . twice, in fact.

In fact, Mass. voted Republican for president in every election but one, from 1860-1924 (that's 16 out of 17, if you're keeping score at home).

Since then, y'all have gone for Eisenhower twice ('52-'56) and Reagan twice ('80-'84) (that's 17 of 21 for the Democrats). So, I guess it depends on when you start the clock. . .

And famously, you all stood alone for McGovern (even against his own home state) in '72. . .

Best Man said...

THe dumb and dumber film was inspired by this show to some degree.

Uncle Skip, said...

Don'tcha just hate it when something doesn't meet your expectations?
Nice review ...except for what Craig pointed out ...but then we wouldn't expect anything less.

Suldog said...

Craig & (not my) Uncle Skip - Craig likes to pick nits, which is OK because it's a favorite pastime of my own. Actually, what I was counting on was my readers having short attention spans, limited to the last 25 years or so. Since much of the subject of this piece is stuff that happened 70 and 80 years ago, that was obviously a mistake on my part.

Craig said...

Well, sheesh, 25 years only covers the last six presidential elections. Small sample size. . .

I was just noticing that, since there's been a Republican Party, it has won Massachussetts slightly more than half the time. So, I'm not sure what point you were trying to make. . . ;)

I also noticed that, the last two Republican presidents that Mass. voted for, were president when I was born, and when I got married. So, I expect that, the next time you go 'Red' (and hey, I thought 'red' was shorthand for 'communist'?), I'll probably be dying soon. Which makes me just a tiny bit nervous, with a former Republican governor of Massachussetts running in this year's election. . . (whose father, just sayin', was governor of Michigan. . .)

But hey, at least now you're nit-free. . .

;)

Michelle H. said...

Your favorite pastime is picking nits? What do you do with them after you pick them?

Um, yeah, I'll probably watch the movie. I'm so-so when it comes to the Three Stooges, so I'll wait until it hits cable to see it.

And I thought your favorite pastime was ego stroking. Oh, what. You did mention fellatio...

Sorry, in one of those strange moods today.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Must admit I'm not a fan of the Stooges at all. With that said I'm a huge fan of just about anything Farrelly so it may go in the old Netflix queue someday.

Your initial response (and those you had to prior production of Stooge related media) is how I feel every time I hear a book has been turned into a movie. The best yet was Lord of the Rings. But I always feel for King because no one can ever manage to get it right.

Craig said...

And while I'm at it (hey, it's Friday!), Haile Selassie is beloved of the Rastafarians; Rastafarians are fond of the ganja weed. Need I say more?

Buck said...

It's good to be pleasantly surprised every so often. The trouble is that it happens SO rarely.

Jimmy said...

Like you I didn't think this Stooge movie would be worth the time to watch, we watched it on Netflix with our son and I laughed my rear end off, I would definitely watch it again, like you said the actors pulled it off really well and the plot was actually good.

Karen said...

Oh, good! I probably would never have watched it, thinking it wouldn't be as funny. Now, I will. LOVED the 3 Stooges!

Kat said...

I've always thought the 3 Stooges were funny though I admit I do not know much about them.

I am glad that I read your review, however, because I am sick of movie remakes and roll my eyes everytime I see one (aren't there ANY original ideas out there anymore?), but I'm happy to hear this was a good one. I will definitely rent it now. Plus, I love the actors in this one. :)
Great review! Thanks!

Hilary said...

Moe better stuff.. snort. :) I'm glad you enjoyed. I never cared much for the show and doubt I would for the movie (though I quite like Sean Hayes), but... you never know. I'm learning the truth to that statement more and more these days. Fine post.

lime said...

i am a relative latecomer to stooge appreciation (i won't go so far as to call it fandom but i don't despise them like many women do) since i was forbidden to watch them when i was a child. i too cringed at the thought of this movie partly because even i, in my relative lack of stooge historical knowledge, knew the earlier production was a complete piece of crap and generally i find that to most often be the case when beloved characters are resurrected. but i am glad to hear this one had a worthy outcome. i do enjoy sean hayes and will sasso so i am glad they haven't sullied their careers with atrocious renderings of famous characters.

lime said...

that said, as much as i like spinach in many other forms, i can't imagine ever enjoying it creamed.

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

Yeah, I've never really been much on the Stooges. I'll admit I haven't given them an honest chance to this point, but it's not generally my cup of tea. And I had NO desire to see the new movie. But who knows, cable TV being what it is, I may just give it a chance because ol' Sully said so.

joeh said...

So now I've got to go see it.

Never saw their full lenth movies, but their shorts on "Officer Joe Bolton" ch11 WPIX in NY at 4:00 was a standard watch when I was a kid.

Stephen Hayes said...

Damn--can't find my hammer. All I can say after reading your post is that I feel like pulling out someone's hair. I wonder if it will sound like piano wire.

Jackie said...

I'm impressed; it takes a lot to do that (impress me.) Great post, my friend. Love your honesty...always.

LuluRN said...

As we discussed today, it was a true show of love of The Stooges by all involved. It was a Three Stooges Movie, not Shakespeare. I liked it and I have never been a Stooges Fan (although I tolerated a Stoogathon at your house for the sake of my son some 20+ years ago). I'm glad you enjoyed it and let your loyal followers know how good it was!