DID YOU READ

Tim Grierson on “The Three Stooges” and the Risk of Casting Non-Stars

Will Sasso, Chris Diamantopoulos and Sean Hayes in "The Three Stooges"

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Replacing cultural icons isn’t easy. For modern-day films, that challenge usually involves finding the right actor for a reboot of Superman or Spider-Man, but this Friday comes a new movie based on a property older than your typical comic-book character. It’s “The Three Stooges,” the big-screen remake inspired by the slapstick comedy act that first appeared on screen more than 80 years ago.

For a few generations of fans, Larry, Curly and Moe will always be, respectively, Larry Fine, Curly Howard and Moe Howard, but time marches on, and directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly had to find actors who could play these roles. Those are big shoes to fill. At one point, it looked like Sean Penn, Jim Carrey and Benicio Del Toro were going to do it, but instead “The Three Stooges” will star three lesser-known actors. So, who are these guys? One of them, you’ll probably recognize. The other two, you might need a little help.

The most famous of the trio is Sean Hayes, who will be Larry. His claim to fame was his role in the long-running sitcom “Will & Grace” as Jack, which earned him seven Emmy nominations. (He won once, in 2000.) Like a lot of actors who find success on TV, Hayes has mostly moved from thing to thing since — including doing one-off episodes for “Portlandia” and “30 Rock” — but most everybody still associates him with Jack, which I’m sure is a bit of a blessing and a curse.

But that’s still more high-profile than our new Curly, Will Sasso. Clean-shaven and beefy like Curly Howard before him, Sasso appeared on “Mad TV” for several seasons, and he’s kicked around since, starring on the short-lived “$#*! My Dad Says” and doing voices on “The Cleveland Show” and “Family Guy.” Although he’s played characters in movies like “Life as We Know It,” he’s primarily been an impression guy, spoofing Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Randy Newman. So perhaps playing Curly isn’t that huge of a stretch — he basically just needs to imitate Howard.

Then there’s Chris Diamantopoulos. Before being cast as Moe, he was probably most famous for portraying Robin Williams in the 2005 TV movie “Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of ‘Mork & Mindy.’” Like Sasso, Diamantopoulos has gained notoriety for playing famous people — and his Williams is pretty darn good — but he’s also been able to establish an acting career with stints on “24” and “The Starter Wife.” Currently, he’s also the guy in those Charles Schwab ads.

All in all, decent résumés, but let’s be honest: We’re a long ways away from Sean Penn, Jim Carrey and Benicio Del Toro. And maybe that’s for the best. “The Three Stooges” represents a lifelong dream for the Farrelly brothers, whose biggest hit (“There’s Something About Mary”) was 14 years ago, which might as well be several lifetimes ago in Hollywood years. They’ve had a series of duds of late, but there was a sense that if they could just make this movie happen, then maybe they could right the ship. And while bigger stars in “The Three Stooges” would have definitely helped at the box office, the filmmakers insist that they ended up with the right cast — perhaps in part because they found guys you wouldn’t necessarily know from a lot of other roles. At least that’s how Peter Farrelly explained it in a recent interview:

“This movie couldn’t have been made any better with anyone else, the three we got are incredible. We’ve always been blessed to have people pass on us. We could sit here and say, it was a choice, but we couldn’t get anybody! People were scared to death to do this movie because of the criticism you see all over the internet and also because we were clear on one thing. We said, you’re not doing a version of Moe, Larry or Curly. You’re doing Moe, Larry and Curly, on the nose. This isn’t Batman, where different actors come in and do their thing. Nobody liked that. So we decided to cast the best Moe, Larry and Curly out there and these are the guys we came up with.”

And now they’re going to have to see if audiences are happy that these are the guys the Farrellys came up with. Like with a Batman or James Bond movie, “The Three Stooges” doesn’t necessarily need stars — it just needs someone who feels right for the part. Looking at the publicity materials, Hayes, Sasso and Diamantopoulos are reasonable physical facsimiles of Larry, Curly and Moe. Now they just have to convince us they’ve got the original trio’s comic timing and rapport. And, really, not being big stars probably won’t make any difference in that regard. Just being funny will probably be good enough.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.