Earlier this week the trailer for Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s The Three Stooges went live online. For a few hours before I could sit down and watch it, I saw my Twitter stream light up with anger and righteous indignation. Apparently the trailer sucked, the concept sucked and the Farrellys sucked. Epic fail or something.
So then I got a chance to watch it. Let’s actually do that again:
Like most of the complainers, I grew up watching “The Three Stooges.” Their physical gags were only outdone by their snappy dialogue.1 They were masters of comic form, even if they had a minimal range. Their comedy never got more complex than it needed to. They could be groundbreaking with a work like You Nazty Spy! but not elevate themselves to the level of, say, Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be.
Never growing out of their Vaudeville britches, we have relegated them to remain in the 1930s and 1940s forever, back when they were good. The Farrellys appear to have gone against this accepted wisdom and brought the Stooges into present day.
I don’t know much about the film outside of this trailer, so I can’t tell if the Farrellys are pulling a Brady Bunch Movie and anachronistically dropping the three numbskulls into modern times. It’s clear that they’re rehashing old jokes. From the looks of the trailer they’re sticking pretty closely to the source material. So it begs the question: what’s the big deal?
I realize that it seems odd and perhaps blasphemous to move the Stooges out of their golden age, but perhaps it’s necessary. Are the Stooges not timeless? Who’s to say they can’t be as enduring characters as Superman, James Bond or Doctor Who? Why should history have only one set of Stooges?
Finally, I’d like to answer the following tweet from Scott Weinberg:
Imagine if a filmmaker who loved comedy made a fun, funny, poignant biopic about the three stooges themselves. Now they can’t.— Scott Weinberg (@scottEweinberg) December 7, 2011
First off, that’s not true. See: Capote (2005) and Infamous (2006), Titanic (1996) and Titanic (1997). People will make whatever they like whenever they like. Also, there already is a Stooges biopic that hits roughly the chord Scott is looking for, James Frawley’s 2000 made-for-TV The Three Stooges starring Michael Chiklis and Evan Handler.2 The scene in which a petite woman bludgeons Curly in a hotel to a crowd of onlooking laughers is, to my mind, about as poignant as one can get about the Stooges.
But that’s not really my point. Why do we need another biopic about Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp, Joe Besser and “Curly Joe” DeRita? What is the Stooges film we really need? For me, I think the Farrellys might be onto something here. They’re apparently unafraid of pissing off the “core” Stooge fans while doing their best to stick to the conventions of the comedy troupe’s bits. Maybe this is the Stooges film we need, if not the one everyone wants.