THERE'S AN INEXPLICABLE disclaimer at the end of The Three Stooges, in which the Farrelly brothers alert the audience about the perils of poking people in the eyeball. It's just fun and games and movie sleight of hand, so don't actually poke people in the eye! Fair enough, Brothers Farrelly. Fair enough.
I don't think impressionable children running around poking eyes out is going to be a huge issue, though, as The Three Stooges is not a film for children. No child alive gives two shits about 60-year-old black-and-white movie serials. This is a film made for children by nostalgic adults who can no longer remember what children do or like. If you are a nostalgic adult, this movie may entertain you, but you're going to have to wade through some reality TV references and an extremely inept explanation of what Facebook is.
The Stooges themselves are one Wayans brother away from a TV movie Dream Team in 1998: Larry is Sean Hayes (that annoying guy from Will & Grace), Curly is Will Sasso (the goofy white guy from MADtv), and Moe is Chris Diamantopoulos (I don't know who he is) are pretty good imitations of the real Stooges. They look and sound their parts, which is no small feat. Craig Bierko shows up at one point, and I'm glad that guy's getting work. He was great in The 13th Floor. You should really go out and rent that movie. It's was overshadowed by Dark City and The Matrix, but it still holds up. Sorry, where was I?
Oh right, the past! The funny thing is, a lot of the old Stooges gags still work. The audience at my screening was laughing harder than at any high-minded Apatow film I've been to, and the 10-minute-long head bonking, eye-gouge blocking, face-wrecking crescendo was a wonder to behold. But directors who grew up with the stuff have incorporated these bits better. A 30-second hat tip in Army of Darkness is worth the hour and a half of cow-eyed homage here. It's like caramel: An apple coated in caramel? A delicious summertime treat. An apple-sized ball of caramel covered in more caramel? That is too much caramel.
Then we have the plot. Because there's a plot for some reason, perhaps because the Farrelly brothers went to the same film school that insisted Michel Bay include dialogue in his movies. The Stooges' strengths are violence, sound effects, and verbal tics. Plot is not in there. This story, though, veers between weird attempts at pathos (the Stooges try to save an orphanage staffed by hot nuns) and extremely dark interludes (the Stooges try to kill an adulterous woman's wealthy husband).
Have I gotten to the part where they douse each other in streams of baby pee? No? Well, here is a disclaimer for the end of this review: A face full of baby pee is probably bad for you. It's certainly not good for a movie.