out of Five
Running time: 92
The Three Stooges may be something of an acquired taste, but this is an extremely faithful reboot that delivers some huge laughs, thanks to a witty script, pacy direction, some inspired comic set-pieces and a trio of terrific performances from Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos and Will Sasso.
What's it all about?
Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, The Three Stooges is their long-in-development pet project, part reboot and part loving tribute to the popular 1930s comedy team. Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos and Will Sasso star as Larry, Moe and Curly, three bumbling, violence-prone knuckleheads who grew up in an orphanage under the care of Mother Superior (Jane Lynch), kind hearted Sister Rosemary (Jennifer Hudson) and not-so-kind-hearted Sister Mary Mengele (Larry David).
When their beloved orphanage is threatened with closure, the Stooges head out into the big wide world to try and raise the money to save their home. As luck would have it, they run into sexy golddigger Lydia (Sofia Vergara), who offers them money to bump off her millionaire husband (Kirby Heyborne) so she can run off with his best friend (Craig Bierko), fooling the Stooges into believing that her husband is terminally ill. However, things don't go entirely according to plan.
Hayes, Diamantopoulos and Sasso are extremely funny as the Stooges, brilliantly recreating their famous comedy violence routines and getting the characterisation exactly right, from Moe's 1930s gangster-speak to Curly's physical tics and eminently imitable “Woo-woo-woo” noises. There's also terrific comic support from the likes of Larry David (a genius bit of casting) and Sofia Vergara (giving it the full va-va-voom).
As you might expect with the Farrelly Brothers, the jokes come thick and fast and the film is jam-packed with witty lines, inspired sight gags and hilarious comic set-pieces. Highlights include an extended sequence set on the orphanage roof, a mock-gunfight in a hospital with urinating babies as guns (which sounds awful on paper, but is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, partly because they take it much further than you think the joke can go) and a scene set at a society party, but every scene of the Stooges poking, punching and slapping each other is exquisitely timed and a joy to watch, if you like that sort of thing.
The only real problem is a plot development involving the cast of Jersey Shore, as while it's amusing to see them all get slapped about by Moe, it's also a gag that will badly date the film. Similarly, there are a number of cameos that are likely to go over the heads of UK audiences, such as Isaiah Mustafa (as a TV executive), who's something of a cult figure in the US but relatively unknown here.
If you're already a fan of The Three Stooges, then this faithful homage is practically unmissable. For everyone else, it's a genuinely hilarious knockabout comedy with terrific comic performances. Recommended.