April 19, 2012

Updated 'Three Stooges' hits the spot


---- — There's a large segment of the population that just doesn't get the eye-gouging, concussive humor of The Three Stooges. Then there are the rest of us.

For that latter group, Bobby and Peter Farrelly's "The Three Stooges" update will hit just the right spot. Possibly with a hammer, a steam iron or a chain saw.

The newest chapter of the Stooges begins with infants Moe, Larry and Curly tossed on the doorstep of an orphanage. We fast forward 10 years to briefly see the pre-teen incarnations wreaking havoc with the nuns — most notably represented by Larry David as stern Sister Mary-Mengele.

From there, it's on to modern times, and after 35 years of sheltered existence, the Stooges are launched into a world completely unprepared for them, ostensibly to raise funds to save the troubled orphanage.

"The Three Stooges" does not break any new ground. In fact, it frequently falls back on familiar, classic routines from the '30s — which works just fine, since the original work was a weird kind of warped genius.

The new Stooges, themselves, accurately mimic the look, the expressions, the voices and the timing of the original trio. Chris Diamantopoulos ("24") is the dour leader, Moe. Sean Hayes ("Will and Grace") is frizzy-haired follower Larry.

The real standout, though, is Will Sasso ("MADtv"), who truly inhabits the part of Curly, bringing back to life the funniest of all the Stooges (sorry Shemp), with all the right mannerisms and quips.

The 21st century gives the Stooges some new props to work with (a microwave oven, reality TV), but the slapstick — right down to the sound effects — is familiar to anyone who ever hunkered down for a black-and-white television marathon of eye pokes and head slaps.

The movie is undeniably juvenile and lowbrow, but the pace is madcap and the mayhem is very well-choreographed.

In addition to David's disturbing nun, the supporting players include Jane Lynch ("Glee") as an optimistic and supportive Mother Superior and Sofia Vergara ("Modern Family") as a scheming wife.

The film, however, is almost entirely dependent on the three leads. Together, they deliver several big laughs and plenty of nyuk-nyuk-nyuks.

Those with standards and good taste probably won't enjoy "The Three Stooges." The rest of us don't care what they think; we're just happy to get a long-awaited fresh dose.

Rental Recommendation: Once upon a time, a pair of misfit brothers went on their own mission from God, in "The Blues Brothers." Grade: A-

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