Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Sh!#ting on the Classics: The Three Stooges
If it were not for the box-office juggernaut that is The Hunger Games, the steaming pile of shit that is The Three Stooges would have been the Number One movie at the box office this past weekend, which I believe is one of the Biblical signs of the Apocalypse.
Look, if you want a straight review of this thing, read this.
What I want to discuss today is a wider trend than simply the latest disappointing Farrelly Brothers movie.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I love the original Three Stooges. I have also developed two theories about them. First, all men can be classified as a Moe, a Larry, or a Curly. THINK ABOUT IT.
The second is that the Three Stooges are a glimpse of what all men would act like all the time if there were no women on the planet. It is true.
This new film plies us with the contemptible notion that the Stooges are misunderstood orphans who would have been adopted if not for their heart-warming desire to stay together, and that all of the violent and indefensible destruction they wreak is somehow okay because it is now in the service of reuniting orphans, healing sick orphans, and saving an orphanage full of orphans.
This film could give you diabetes. The original Stooges could only give you a concussion. They were mostly interested in hitting each other with big wrenches. Oh, how far we have come. (We have not come far.)
The most jaw-dropping example of how this film panders to its audience is the brief pre-end credits sequence where we are shown by the directors (actually male models pretending to be the directors in one of this movie’s many jokes that do not quite work) that the hammers and saws in the movie are fake, that the sound effects sell the gag, and that WE SHOULD NEVER REALLY POKE ANYONE IN THE EYES.
They were the Three STOOGES. The word “stooge” means something. They were NOT the “Three PhD Candidates on a Mission to Save an Orphanage and a Dying Kid.”
A LITTLE FILM HISTORY: Critics agree that the Marx Brothers were at their best in the five films they made at Paramount between 1929 and 1933. Here we see the “unfettered” Marx Brothers, free of distracting subplots or sentiment. When the failure of 1933’s Duck Soup led to their contract not being renewed, they moved to MGM, where their films were quickly watered down with romantic subplots and huge “straight” musical numbers. They were neutered in the MGM films; their anarchic spirit was gone. The ironic punchline: Night at the Opera, their first “safe” MGM film, made more money than their previous five films combined.
With The Three Stooges, the Farrelly brothers are apparently interested in box office success and not the spirit of the original Three Stooges. They have constructed the same mountain of distracting nonsense that the Marx Brothers had to climb at MGM – The Farrellys have made the Three Stooges film that the real Stooges WERE NEVER FORCED TO MAKE. This film even boasts an unnecessary musical number that features Jennifer Hudson as a SINGING NUN.
The Three Stooges also continues the nauseating trope I wrote about last week. Modern filmmakers seem bent on contrasting something old (the Stooges) with something new (contemporary society) in order to get easy laughs. Except for the fact that I derive psychic satisfaction from watching them experience physical abuse, the cast of Jersey Shore has no business being in a Three Stooges movie. This is a moron’s idea of cleverness.
This is designed to appeal to a new generation that wants everything to come to them… “I will watch The Three Stooges, but only if it contains THINGS I KNOW.” This attitude, when applied to popular culture, is suicidal and self-defeating. If someone will only watch “comfortable” entertainment, FULL OF THINGS ONE ALREADY KNOWS, then where will new ideas come from? The mind boggles.
I think Roger Ebert said it best. “Modifying [entertainment] to make it more 'contemporary' and 'relevant' is doing an injustice to [viewers] who will become relevant to the exact degree that [movies] encourage them to outgrow themselves and escape from the contemporary into the timeless.”
(Chicago Sun-Times, January 19, 1996)
Am I simply patting myself on the back? When I was a child, I fell in love with the movies—first with horror movies but then with all movies—and I eagerly sought out THAT WHICH WAS UNFAMILAR TO ME.
I sought it out. I expended effort to find it and therefore it held intrinsic value. It was not presented to me gift-wrapped and full of iPhone references and pee-pee jokes!
But this “updating” also leads to a rift in the time-space continuum. The Stooges are shown being dropped off at the orphanage in the late seventies, so they grow up to exist in 2012, but for some asinine reason they favor fashions from the 1940’s—you know, the kinds of clothes the original Stooges always wore. This film wants old Stooges and new Stooges; it wants its pie in the face and it wants to eat it too.
Some critics have complimented the acting in the film, but this too leads to a postmodern meltdown that makes my head feel like it is about to explode. The film is not a biopic. Will Sasso, Sean Hayes, and Chris Diamantopoulos are NOT impersonating Curly Howard, Larry Fine, and Moe Howard; they are impersonating the fictional characters that the beloved, original actors created. This is a puppet show of a puppet show.
I realize that the Stooges were lowbrow, but even they shied away from poo-poo and potty jokes. This film has no problem with the Stooges using urinating babies as weapons and lighting farts.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I found the slapstick sequences in this film pretty funny. They are well choreographed, well performed, well paced, and well edited. During these brief moments, the film comes alive. This does not argue, however, for a better Three Stooges film; it instead argues for more and better slapstick comedy in contemporary films.
I am on record saying that it is a fool’s errand to go back and remake something like this…anything like this. Here’s a game you can play at home: List ten terrific remakes (not sequels, that is cheating.) Ten terrific remakes … I am waiting…
It is the same problem I have with Gus Van Sant’s misbegotten Psycho remake. It is like trying to reheat a soufflé. Filmmakers: stop remaking stuff that already works! Remake bad movies and make them better.
Why not just rerelease two hours of original Three Stooges film to theaters? You could save the entire budget of this misbegotten film.
BUT WAIT! There is a problem looming on the horizon… the original Stooges might never be shown in a real movie theater again. Have you seen this? No? Well, read it. Now-- the whole thing. Do not just read the first two pages and say you have read it. Read the whole goddamned thing for a change.
BETTER YET: The third most popular film this past weekend was Cabin in the Woods and, believe it or not, it provides an interesting contrast to The Three Stooges. Like the Farrelly brothers and their love of the Stooges, Drew Goddard and Joss Wedon love the horror genre, make no mistake; but they do not express their love by merely remaking Friday the 13th. Goddard and Whedon create something challenging that demonstrates their love for horror movies by forcing the audience to think about horror movies with the same depth and clarity with which the filmmakers have thought about horror movies. Some reviewers have missed this point; apparently, being confronted with ideas about their misanthropic love of carnage and fright makes them think that the movie itself is “not scary enough.”
Dude, do a little soul-searching and you will be plenty scared.
Go see Cabin in the Woods.