The Three Stooges (DVD/Blu-Ray) – Dir. Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. Starring Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sasso.
Walking the line between heartfelt tribute and savage abomination, the Farrelly brothers reanimate The Three Stooges and dance them around like hideous puppets in their latest film.
The Three Stooges isn’t a biopic, but a new Stooges comedy set in the modern day, starring modern actors in the roles played by the original Stooges. This is a slightly tricky concept to wrap one’s head around: something like if 50 years from now, a young comedian starred in a film about a clueless TV pundit named Stephen Colbert.
In this Frankensteinian revival, the Stooges are brothers raised by nuns at an orphanage. Having scaring off any prospective parents during their childhoods, the three of them grow up to do odd jobs around the place in as unsafe a manner as possible.
It’s the same story as in all movies like this; when our heroes find out the orphanage is on the verge of closing, they head out into the world to raise enough money to save the day.
There’s something vaguely sacrilegious about the whole thing, even to someone with no particular attachment to the Stooges. It feels like little more than an exercise in self-indulgence for a pair of directors who want to recreate someone else’s success and a trio of comedians who want to show off impressions of their comic idols. The lazy story and standard moments of Farrelly brothers trashiness (like a urination gunfight among the Stooges with maternity ward babies as weapons) add to that picture.
Nevertheless, the Stooge characterizations are superb (it’s particularly nice to see Will Sasso, a chronically underrated comic actor, in a starring role). The film also performs the public service of introducing today’s wimpy, Pokemon-cuddling children to the Three Stooges and to the comedy value of nonstop consequence-free violence. Eyes are poked and skulls are bashed.
Of course, the movie isn’t entirely irresponsible. In a scene before the end credits, a couple of actors claiming to be the Farrelly brothers give an earnest (and inexplicably shirtless) warning to kids that the stunts were all fake and that they really shouldn’t gouge their friends’ eyes out. Sissies.
I don’t want to say The Three Stooges is funny, because its jokes more often than not are flat or groan-worthy, but I’ll go as far as saying it isn’t entirely unfunny. The physical comedy routines featured here are the definition of time-tested, with many of them lifted directly from classic Three Stooges sketches. Other ideas that sound like they should be appalling, like Moe getting a role on MTV reality television, turn out to be surprisingly amusing when you realize that this entails seeing members of The Jersey Shore cast being repeatedly abused and assaulted.
But even at its best, The Three Stooges is a snack dressed up as a five-course meal: a concept that gets tiring almost before it starts. No one wants to spend 90 minutes gnawing on Ritz crackers.
Rated PG for anger towards foster homes.
2.5 out of 5
Casa de mi Padre (DVD/Blu-Ray) – Dir. Matt Piedmont. Starring Will Ferrell, Genesis Rodriguez, Gael García Bernal.
Shallow spoof film that quickly outstays its short welcome.
Casa de mi Padre proposes to be a parody of a Spanish soap opera, armed with stilted dialog, strange subtitles, cheap sets, cheesy camera tricks, editing errors, and all the rest. Fill it with genuine Mexican screen actors and throw Will Ferrell into the starring role of a humble Mexican rancher despite him not actually knowing how to speak Spanish, and it starts to sound like an almost workable idea.
Unfortunately, it’s the only idea the movie has.
Odd translations, fake production slip-ups, and the image of Ferrell in his wholly inappropriate role account for about 90 percent of Casa de mi Padre’s attempts at comedy. The film’s actual content, meanwhile, is practically humorless; the story and script could nearly pass as the basis for a really bad, but sincere, Spanish drama.
The problem with this approach becomes apparent within about five minutes, when all of these one-note jokes predictably get old and there’s nothing left but the plot and the occasional sight gag to maintain interest.
The narrative is simplistic, intentionally cliched, and just engaging enough to keep the film from being a complete waste of time. A revenge/salvation story, it has Ferrell’s character Armando taking on a band of drug dealers who come after the family after being crossed by Armando’s arrogant brother. It unfolds as these stories should, with violence, romance, and tasteless nudity.
But as a comedy, the film is unquestionably a failure. Even at their funniest, the errors and melodramatics are only slightly exaggerated versions of what’s found in authentic telenovelas and B-movies, and anyone with an inclination to laugh at this kind of thing would be better served by going straight to the source instead of to this coldly calculated facsimile that spends all its time winking at the camera.
Casa de mi Padre is one more sorry demonstration of what happens when a concept that would have worked for a two-minute sketch is ballooned out to a feature length film.
Rated R for grasping and clutching.
2 out of 5