For Bobby and Peter Farrelly, the low-comic connoisseurs whose brand name-establishing debut was 1994's Dumb and Dumber, this antic, dozen-years-in-the-making Three Stooges feature must be a labor of love tantamount to Mel Gibson filming his Passion. The Holy Trinity of knockabout numbskull comedy—fritz-haloed Larry, yipping lummox Curly, and bowl-cut fascist Moe—are introduced as they're ditched on the steps of an orphanage. Twenty-five years later, they've grown up to resemble, respectively, television comics Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulos, unleashed on the unsuspecting world when the only home the unclaimed foundlings have known is threatened with foreclosure. The trusty old emergency-fundraising plot (see: the Farrellys' Kingpin) is just a handy rack to hang gags on, and the leads acquit themselves in the physical comedy, resurrecting shtick honed on a thousand-and-one vaudeville stages, and recreated in as many playgrounds. Never accused of being visual stylists, the Farrellys shoot with a straightforward clarity that approximates the rudimentary, slightly shabby feel of the Stooges' short-subjects, while adding a little mushiness that's entirely their own. Beyond some CGI-augmented violence, the biggest concession to updating the Stooges for the 21st Century is a subplot that lands Moe on a reality TV show, identifying the Stooges' contribution to our pop culture as part of an ongoing tradition of tone-lowering public jackassery.
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