24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: The Three Stooges

'The Three Stooges': How did the Farrelly brothers get here?

April 16, 2012 |  9:56 am

"The Three Stooges," directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, was not the box-office comeback the filmmakers hoped for.
It was supposed to turn out differently for the Farrelly brothers. Enduring a cold streak more intense than a Rhode Island winter, the New England filmmakers were supposed to change all that with "The Three Stooges," an update they didn't so much choose to make as believe was their destiny.

The pair watched the shorts, mouths agape, when they were children, fascinated by the effortless physical comedy of Larry, Curly, Moe and Shemp. They began pursuing the rights as far back as 1996, a lifetime ago in commercial cinema. They made plans to start shooting, at the time with Warner Bros., all the way back in 2004.

With an iteration that at one point was to star Sean Penn and Benicio del Toro, a feature-length "Three Stooges" movie was to be the Farrellys' opus. "We've thought about it for 12 years," Peter Farrelly told 24 Frames last year. "I literally lie in bed thinking about every single shot. I've never been more prepared to do a movie in my life."

But this weekend showed that even a lot of desire and preparation can get you a little poke in the eye.

The movie didn't flop. But with $17.1 million, the Fox release was far from even a decisive hit, beaten by a film, "The Hunger Games," that was rapidly losing steam in its fourth weekend. Nor was the PG-rated "Stooges"--now starring Sean Hayes instead of Sean Penn--anywhere close to the kind of cultural event that you'd hope for with a decade-long project based on a classic property. Audiences rated it only a so-so B-, and even generous critics said it was, at best, mindless fun. A not-small number agreed with the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, who called it "the death, burial, putrefaction and decomposition  of comedy." The movie received a dismal 41% on Rotten Tomatoes.

How did this happen? Talking to the brothers last year, one got the sense that this was a duo more invested in the game than their last few efforts, "The Heartbreak Kid" and "Hall Pass," might have suggested. Their passion was still there; so was the belief that they could still turn out a standout in the stunted-male-comedy environment they helped create.

But it turns out they're lacking some other important ingredients. The Farrellys don't have the novelty factor anymore--not when figures like Sacha Baron Cohen play the gross-out squirm card as well as they once did, not when Harold and Kumar and "Horrible Bosses" and a spate of R-rated offspring had been watching so carefully, not when Judd Apatow and his gang of proteges have been doing the sweet-raunch thing equally sharply and perhaps more timely (and with more fully realized female characters).

More to the point, maybe they don't quite have the touch anymore. There was always an element of clever plotting in Peter and Bobby Farrelly's movies -- witness the devious chess match between the various suitors at the center of "There's Something About Mary" -- that wasn't (and maybe would never be) in "The Three Stooges." And even their signature sight gags weren't as prevalent as you'd expect. The most memorable scene in "There's Something About Mary" was Cameron Diaz unwittingly walking around with a substance she thinks is hair gel. The most memorable in "Three Stooges"? Well, let's just say there are a lot of objects coming down on a lot of bodies.

Some could argue, I suppose, that the unraveling of the Farrellys' success is cultural, a function of young males no longer ruling the roost at the box office. But it's hard not to point at a filmmaking team that, bopped on the head by a crop of competitors, has endured its own exaggerated, decade-long pratfall.

RELATED:

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"The Three Stogges" draws shrugs, rebukes laughs from critics

-- Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A scene from "The Three Stooges." Credit: 20th Century Fox


Around Town: The Stooges ride back to town

November 24, 2011 |  6:00 am

Stooges

The Three Stooges, a Gary Cooper double bill and a tribute to Japan’s Studio Ghibli are among the Thanksgiving week film offerings.

Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk! The Alex Film Society presents its 14th annual “Three Stooges Big Screen Event” Saturday afternoon and evening at the venerable Alex Theatre in Glendale. The slapstick, eye-poking comedy shorts starring Moe, Curly, Larry and Shemp are presented in glorious 35mm. Among the shorts scheduled are 1937’s “Back to the Woods” and “Goofs and Saddles,” 1948’s “Mummies Dummies,” with Shemp, 1943’s “Higher Than a Kite” and 1938’s “Wee Wee Monsieur.” http://www.alexfilmsociety.org

The New Beverly celebrates Turkey Day with a Gary Cooper double bill Thursday and Friday: 1930’s melodrama “Morocco,” directed by Josef Von Sternberg and also starring Marlene Dietrich in her only Oscar-nominated performance, and 1940’s “The Westerner,” directed by William Wyler and co-starring Walter Brennan, who picked up his third supporting actor Oscar as the infamous Judge Roy Bean.

Two seminal films from former cinematographer-turned-director Nicolas Roeg are screening Tuesday and Wednesday at the theater-1971’s Australian adventure “Walkabout,” with Jenny Agutter and David Gulpilil and the 1976 sci-fi fantasy “The Man Who Fell to Earth” with David Bowie. http://www.newbevcinema.com

Film Independent at LACMA shines a “Spotlight on Studio Ghibli” Saturday at the Leo S. Bing Theater. The Japanese animation studio was created in 1985 by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki. Screening late Saturday afternoon is 1986’s “Castle in the Sky,” Miyazaki’s debut film for the studio, followed in the evening by Miyazaki’s 2001 “Spirited Away,” which earned the Oscar for best animated feature. This week’s Tuesday matinee feature at the Bing is the 1936 screwball comedy “Theodora Goes Wild,” for which Irene Dunne earned a lead actress Oscar nomination. Melvyn Douglas also stars. http://www.lacma.org/series/film-independent-lacma

The American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre screens 1952’s “Singin’ in the Rain,” which is widely considered the greatest movie musical ever made, on Friday evening. Gene Kelly, who co-directed with Stanley Donen, stars with Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor and Jean Hagen in this effusive musical farce about the early days of the talkies in Hollywood. On tap for Saturday afternoon at the theater is “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The beloved 1939 musical fantasy “The Wizard of Oz” is set for late Sunday afternoon. And Wim Wenders’ 1999 musical documentary “Buena Vista Social Club” is on tap for Wednesday.

The Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre presents “French Female Directors Shorts Showcase” Saturday evening at its intimate Spielberg Theatre, while the main theater will be presenting the 1939 Oscar-winning epic “Gone With the Wind,” starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. http://www.americancinematheque.com

Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre presents the 1972 rock documentary “Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii” and 1976’s “Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same” Friday evening. The Silent Movie Theatre offers a free sneak preview Sunday afternoon of the film “The Death and Return of Superman,” starring Elijah Wood and Mandy Moore. Writer/director Max Landis, as well as several of the stars, schedule permitting, are set to appear for a post-screening Q&A. You must preregister for the screening.

Doug Benson’s “Movie Interruption” presentation at Monday evening Cinefamily’s is the acclaimed “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” http://www.cinefamily.org

Film Courage presents the L.A. premiere of “Missing Pieces” Monday evening at the Downtown Independent. Schedule permitting, there will be a Q&A with director Kenton Barlett and his stars after the movie. http://www.filmcourage.com

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ “2011-2012 Contemporary Documentaries” series continues Wednesday evening at the Linwood Dunn Theater with Davis Guggenheim’s “Waiting for Superman” and Madeleine Sackler’s “The Lottery,” both released in 2010. http://www.oscars.org

UCLA Film & Television Archive’s Wednesday evening presentations at the Million Dollar Theatre in downtown Los Angeles offers two collaborations between Jack Nicholson and director Bob Rafelson: 1970’s “Five Easy Pieces,” for which Nicholson earned his first lead actor Oscar nomination, and the underrated 1972 drama “The King of Marvin Gardens,” which also stars Bruce Dern and Ellen Burstyn. http://www.cinema.ucla.edu

RELATED:

Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli enters ‘The Secret World of Arrietty’

-- Susan King

Photo: The Three Stooges, from left, Moe, Curly and Larry. Credit: Alex Film Society


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