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Nick, nick, nick
April 17, 2012 - Rick Chatenever
At the end of “The Three Stooges” movie, brother-directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly appear on-screen.
I wasn’t paying close enough attention to notice which brother was which — one started the scene without his shirt on to call attention to to his well-ripped physique; the other had a bowling shirt on and did most of the talking.
They looked like they could have been characters on the strange reality-TV hit “Jersey Shore.” I say strange since that TV show is a key plot element in this new film, despite the fact that the actual Stooges —Curly, Larry and Moe —were media superstars in the World War II era, decades before the concepts of superstar or reality-TV even existed. The Farrelly brothers had yet to be conceived.
Bobby and Peter are stepping in front of the cameras with what is essentially a “Don’t try this at home” public service announcement.
They demonstrate how the hammers used by the Stooges (played by Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos and Will Sasso in the new movie) are actually made of soft rubber. The Farrelly brothers use slow-mo, then instant replay to demonstrate that no one is actually getting poked in the eye; the digital jabs land harmlessly on the forehead. The sound effects and the nick, nick, nick create the effect.
The sequence has a deflating effect, like a magician revealing his tricks. But it’s hard not to wonder whether the Farrellys are sincerely concerned about all those potential trips they may have caused to the emergency room:
“Mom!!!! Timmy poked me in the eye!” wails Kimberly.
“I’m auditionin’!” answers Timmy.
In fact, the PSA feels more like the handiwork of studio attorneys hoping to ward off future litigation. It made me wonder about all us kids who grew up on Three Stooges humor, before any disclaimers were necessary. It also made me wonder how you spell “nick, nick, nick” … ? Which ultimately led me to wonder just what we found so funny about this trio of dimwits in the first place.
Granted, in the final analysis, all movies are basically about two things: Sex. And violence. The cinematic euphemism for sex is romance. Violence can easily translate itself to comedy.
Hey, sorry about that banana peel … nick, nick, nick … The antics of the Stooges stem from a time when folks believed it was not only OK to demean someone for being stoo-pid, but that the best cure for the condition was a good shot upside the head.
Trying to bridge the political correctness gap is just one of the missteps taken by the hair-challenged trio in this ill-advised update. Starting with its premise of trying to save the orphanage where the little Stooges grew up to become big Stooges, it feels like one more concept that may have made questionable sense in its own time, but makes none in ours.
As “The Three Stooges” wallows in slapstick, the new film it beat at the box office — “The Cabin in the Woods” — starts at the other end of the IQ scale.
Produced by horror cult-icon Joss Whedon and directed by “Lost” writer Drew Goddard, this was the must-see film at Sundance this year.
Starting with the tried-and-true horror film blueprint —five hedonistic, horny, stoned college kids head out for a wild weekend in the woods, before things turn hideous —it winds up deconstructing the concept instead.
Anna Hutchison, Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, Fran Kranz and Kristen Connolly play the party animals with Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford standing on the sidelines, offering cynical play-by-play and color commentary.
This is one of those high-concept forays where nothing turns out to be what it seems … especially the cabin itself. Without giving much away, there’s a subtext —actually more like a sub-basement, where really strange things happen.
The inside-out script cleverly surrounds its quota of zombies and every other imaginable beastie with clever thoughts stretching from ancient mythology to contemporary, sterile techno-culture.
Brainy stuff, at least until the final bloody reckoning that you realize you’ve seen before, way too many times, and ultimately it’s really not a whole lot smarter than the Stooges in the big scheme of things.
While this unique project has film critics onboard singing its praises, other audiences may find its belief that reality-TV is really the ultimate reality (a theme made far more effectively in “The Hunger Games”) a tad cynical.
And the idea of bringing about the apocalypse because we’re bored is just a little off-putting.
It makes the Stooges’ pokes in the eye seem almost like love taps.
• Contact Rick Chatenever at email@example.com.
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