I thought the Three Stooges reboot would never get out of development hell. Casting rumors were all over the place, proving that either the producers or the public had no idea how to cast the Stooges. At one point, it was rumored that Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn, Jim Carrey would be Moe, Larry and Curly respectively, a cast that appeals more to star power rather than to fidelity to the original property. Things started to solidify as Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, and Will Sasso were officially cast, but that just started the Internet meltdown as fanboys rejected the concept of recasting the Stooges at all.
I never had a problem with recasting the Stooges for the new millennium. I enjoy the classic Three Stooges shorts as much as the next guy, but the shorts live and die exclusively by the Stooges themselves and their slapstick performance. The simplicity of the shorts makes plot, actors, character development, and the time period in which they're shot utterly irrelevant. The Stooges, in my mind, are caricatures that don't need to be tied to the performance of specific individuals or to a certain time period. All a new Stooges movie needs to do is nail the personalities and the slapstick, and Stooge greatness is achieved.
In this 2012 take on the Stooges, we see Larry, Moe, and Curly as kids abandoned to an orphanage administered by nuns. They just can't get adopted (for obvious reasons) and grow up in the orphanage instead. When they reach adulthood, they learn that the orphanage is in crippling debt and faces closure. The Three Stooges leave for the real world, dedicated to saving the orphanage by somehow earning the money to keep it open. Along the way, they get caught up in a wife's plan to murder her wealthy husband, find their way onto a reality TV show, and concoct a number of other schemes to try to get the money, all of which play out in the usual Stooge fashion.
But the plot is ultimately irrelevant; what really matters are the personalities of the Stooges and the performance of the slapstick. Fortunately, these new Stooges are spot-on, eerily reminiscent of their classic counterparts. Moe is played by Chris Diamantopoulos, who might have too slight a physique for the role but exudes Moe's acerbic personality and scowl well. Sean Hayes successfully plays the often-overlooked Larry, a deceptively difficult character to pull off because Larry Fine's performance was so understated compared to the others. And Curly is played by Will Sasso, who might be a bit too tall but plays the character like it's his dream role.
Fortunately, the slapstick isn't toned down for today's audiences. In this litigious post-Jackass era, I was concerned that the producers, worried about kids performing copycat stunts, would soften the slapstick. But these 2012 Stooges are just as "voilent" (if you can use that term) as their predecessors. It's also evident that care was taken to maintain the classic sound effects. The movie is peppered with other throwback touches, like the Stooge title screens that begin each chapter. And not to spoil anything, but the last shot seems like it was taken straight from one of the classic shorts. Considering the movie's dedication to the look and feel of the original shorts, it's evident that the Farrelly brothers (the directors) are long-time Stooge fans themselves.
But what I like most about this movie is that it doesn't try to be more than what it is. That's something that annoys me about many of today's superhero movies: producers take a property meant for kids and "badass it up" so that it appeals to adults, losing a lot of what made the superhero fun to begin with. Refreshingly, this movie bucks that trend, featuring the Stooges drifting from scene to scene grabbing whatever might happen to be within reach to smack the snot out of each other... just like the old days.