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The Three Stooges

As time goes on, things change. Fashion, social norms, political topics, religious thoughts and even senses of humor are all affected by time. Things that were interesting 20 or 30 years ago look strange and archaic today (look no further than the style of the 80’s for proof of that). The Three Stooges is a good example of something that hasn’t aged well. Watching the classic skits the trio was known for today is interesting only for their pop culture history value; the skits themselves don’t hold up well and most certainly aren’t funny. But that isn’t stopping the Farrelly brothers from resurrecting them with a brand new feature length film, simply titled The Three Stooges, and it’s as awful as can be.

The movie follows Moe (Chris Diamantopoulous), Larry (Sean Hayes) and Curly (Will Sasso) as they attempt to save their childhood orphanage from bankruptcy. Along the way, they find themselves stuck in the thick of a murder plot and even starring opposite the cast on Jersey Shore. It’s a loose plot if there ever was one, given that the physically abusive humor the Stooges are known for can happen anywhere. They could be on a farm, in the middle of a big city or on the moon and it would hardly make a difference. Slapstick humor by its very nature is random and unnecessary, rarely generating from the necessity of the story at hand. Therefore, the story is inconsequential, the orphanage a meaningless plot device to throw the trio out into the world to act like idiots.

One could make the argument that the Three Stooges pushed the envelope in their heyday. They were harming each other well before Looney Tunes popularized it among children. In a time when little was tolerated in the media, the Three Stooges were making violence funny (or at least trying). However, we’ve progressed since then. Critics constantly criticize a film that relies almost exclusively on slapstick humor, and for good reason—it’s the lowest form of comedy and requires no creative talent—yet slapstick humor is all the Three Stooges are known for. They have little to offer in the way of depth or innovation and their brand of comedy is simply not funny by today’s standards, rendering them irrelevant.

But their general unpleasantness goes further than just bad comedy. We’re in a time when children can’t even go to school without being bullied, including by those they call their friends, highlighted well in this week’s succinctly titled documentary, Bully, yet bullying is all the Stooges do. The slightest thing happens and the Stooges, particularly Moe, become angry and begin to attack those around them. The film may be rated PG and targeted at kids, but I’m not too sure this movie is appropriate for them, partly because many of them imitate what they see. Aside from the expected eye poking and face slapping, you’ll see the Stooges take a chainsaw to Curly’s head, crush others under heavy objects, shove someone’s head into a microwave and turn it on and even attempt to murder someone by pushing a man in front of a moving truck. Later, when they find out their attempted murder failed, they venture to the hospital to smother their victim with a pillow and finish the job. This behavior is, for lack of a better word, unacceptable and unsuitable for the growing minds of children. A post-film PSA about the illusion of film from two good looking men claiming to be the Farrelly brothers does nothing to negate its harmful and mean-spirited nature.

The Three Stooges have no place in today’s world. This update includes modern day references to things like Facebook and iPhones, but it doesn’t change the fact that its humor is cruel and stuck in the past. There’s maybe one clever joke in the entire film and it’s a spoken line, not an image of someone getting poked in the eye or hit in the groin or punched in the face, and it’s not nearly enough. With inflation occurring alongside a weakening dollar and an economy that is forcing many to struggle to get by, we should demand more for our money than what this abysmal movie has to offer.

The Three Stooges receives 0.5/5



Fair or not, I set a high standard for animated films because I adore animation. The format has given me some of my most memorable and magical trips to the cinema—Pixar, Studio Ghibli, DreamWorks, all have given me enough reasons to hold onto the child within me with their fantastical tales of adventure and wonder—so when I sit down to watch one, I expect something great. Unfortunately, not all movies are worth writing home about (including a few of the aforementioned DreamWorks films). Rio is one of those movies. If the audience reaction at my screening is indicative of how it is going to be received, Rio will be a smash hit at the box office, but for my money, it’s not quite worth the price of admission.

As the film begins, a baby Blue Macaw is being taken from its natural habitat in Brazil and shipped overseas to be sold in an American pet shop. However, its cage falls out of the truck it is riding in before reaching the shop and is picked up by Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann). She imaginatively names him Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) and they spend the next 15 years living happily together. However, she soon finds out that Blu could very well be the last male of his species and to keep the Blue Macaw from going extinct, she is forced to take him back to his original home in Rio de Janeiro to mate with the last known female, Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway).

Of course, things don’t go as planned. The two birds naturally don’t like each other, but are forced to work together when they are birdnapped and chained by the feet by a man who plans to sell them for loads of money. Naturally, they escape and begin to find a fancy for each other as they go along their adventure. That’s obvious and shouldn’t be regarded as a spoiler. What matters in this case is whether or not it’s funny and, as sad as it is to say, it’s mostly not. Aside from a handful of passable chuckles, the jokes fall into one of two categories (and sometimes both). They’re either simpleminded (monkeys texting each other “Ooh ooh ahh ahh!” is far too easy) or they’re unoriginal. You’ve heard these jokes, or at least variations of them, before. Many, many times. It's so derivative, in fact, that it even replicates a joke from last week’s abysmal R rated stoner comedy, Your Highness, which itself had been used previously in many other earlier films. The joke in question is a person singing badly out of tune. It wasn’t funny in Your Highness (although to be fair, nothing was funny in Your Highness) and it’s not funny here either.

If there’s anything to squeeze out of the jokes, it’s the delivery. The voice actors do a relatively good job of bringing forth some enthusiasm, especially Jamie Foxx and, who play two birds who just love to break out into song at every chance possible. The complication, however, is that the voices are so recognizable it becomes distracting. On top of those already mentioned, there’s Wanda Sykes, Jane Lynch, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan and more. All, especially Lopez and Morgan, are so familiar that it becomes nearly impossible to separate the characters from the voices behind them.

As should be expected at this point, Rio is in 3D, which only serves to detract from the experience even more. A few weeks ago, Rango, the first non-3D animated movie to come along in quite some time, proved once and for all that the extra dimension isn't needed. It was a wonderful movie, one of the best of the year so far actually, and it worked without resorting to the overused gimmick. Even when 3D works as intended by extending the depth of field, it comes at a price and dims the visuals due to the tinted glasses. And in a film about colorful animals set in as lively a place as the tropical Rio de Janeiro, stripping the brightness is the last thing you want to do. Usually, 3D is merely an annoyance, but in Rio, it’s a serious and unforgivable problem.

Still, I suppose the animation is good, but that’s hardly a compliment anymore given how much computer animation technology has progressed. Even smaller animation studios have to try pretty hard to look ugly. To put it simply, Rio is merely average, but if that must be noted, it should also be noted that it’s completely harmless. But consider this, if you will. The funniest part of this experience is the Ice Age short that comes before called Scrat’s Continental Crack-up (and it was even funnier the first time I saw it in front of last year’s Gulliver’s Travels). If the unrelated short at the beginning is more enjoyable than the feature length film that comes after, can Rio really be considered a success?

Rio receives 2.5/5



Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are unquestionably one of the greatest comic duos working today. When separated, their abilities are easy to scrutinize (as seen with Pegg in the atrocious How to Lose Friends & Alienate People), but put them together and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. If Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were grand slams, consider their latest, Paul, an inside-the-park home run. The reaction may be the same, yet you can’t help but feel like it isn’t entirely deserved.

Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are sci-fi nerds. They produce their own science fiction comic book, they staunchly believe in aliens and they even speak Klingon. Their dorky personalities mean they belong at one place: Comic-Con. And that’s where they are when the film begins. When the event is over, however, they embark on a tour of American UFO hot spots, only to accidentally run into an alien. His name is Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) and he has just escaped Area 51 where the government was planning on cutting out his brain and studying it. He needs to get home, so he convinces Graeme and Clive to help him.

Paul is funny. Getting that statement out of the way seems necessary because that’s what most people want to know. Its primary goal is to make you laugh and it mostly succeeds. What disappoints the most about Paul, however, is that it also aims to be a satire of the science fiction genre, but mistakes satire for references. The film features some clever nods to everything from Mork & Mindy to Star Wars and includes a particularly funny bit that shows how Steven Spielberg came up with the idea for his classic hit, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, but aside from a few moments, like a great joke poking fun at how slow spaceships take off at the end of sci-fi movies, Paul doesn’t so much satirize as it does pay homage. Their previous, aforementioned films, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, wickedly satirized the horror and action genres, and the former was even able to make an interesting statement on apathy in regards to a generation that lumbers around like they’re already dead. When compared, it’s easy to see that Paul is empty. It lacks the intellectual depth of those films and instead relies on four letter words to garner laughs.

So I suppose it’s good I’m immature. I couldn’t help but get a kick of the foul mouthed Paul, who in one breath denounces religion in front of a Bible thumping, trailer park owner, played by Kristen Wiig, who finds logic in what he says and begins to go down the path of impurity, which includes cursing for the first time (a trait for which she just can't find a rhythm). Along with Wiig, there’s a great supporting cast here, including, but not limited to, Bill Hader, Jeffrey Tambor, Jane Lynch and Jason Bateman. With the exception of Bateman, whose comedic talent is wasted playing the straight faced, no nonsense FBI agent, everybody lends some much needed help to the film by making otherwise unfunny jokes funny through their delivery.

The would-be best supporting player, however, the one who is known for playing one of the greatest sci-fi heroes of all time, is seen and not heard until the end, a reveal that would have been amusing had this person’s voice not been so recognizable. It’s a wasted opportunity and an easy laugh is lost, which is similar to how the whole movie plays out. Paul hits just enough right notes to be passable, but if you’re familiar with Pegg and Frost’s previous collaborations, it’s impossible not to feel somewhat underwhelmed.

Paul receives 3/5