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DID YOU READ

Tim Grierson on the Underrated “The Three Stooges,” Now Out on DVD

The Three Stooges

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There’s a real art to doing dumb well. Plenty of movies and TV shows aim to stir the soul and touch the heart, but some don’t care about any of that: They just want to make you giggle your ass off. Because these types of broad comedies don’t have high aspirations, critics sometimes have a tendency to label them guilty pleasures, as if to say sheepishly, “I know I’m not supposed to like this, but I do.” But I don’t feel guilty at all about my enjoyment of the “Three Stooges” movie that came out earlier this year. It may have been a commercial disappointment, but I can’t think of any movie in 2012 that made me laugh as much as this one. It comes out on DVD on Tuesday — give it a shot.

“The Three Stooges,” based on the comedy act that started in the mid-‘20s, was a movie that directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly have wanted to make for quite some time. In 2009, it looked like the Farrellys had found a high-powered cast for their film: Sean Penn, Jim Carrey and Benicio Del Toro. But over time, all three actors had to drop out, leaving the filmmakers to go with a far-less-starry trio: Sean Hayes as Larry, Will Sasso as Curly, and Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe. There were a lot of risks in going with actors who weren’t big names — although Sean Hayes was well known from “Will & Grace” — but so much of what makes the “Three Stooges” film great is thanks to these three. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine the movie without them.

Divided into three episodes, “The Three Stooges” doesn’t have much of a story — the stooges have to raise a bunch of money for their beloved orphanage, which leads them to be unwitting patsies in a murder plot — but like with a good musical, you’re not watching this movie for artful storytelling. No, it’s all about the gags, the slapstick, and the utter stupidity, and there is plenty of all three to savor. But to enjoy it, you’ll have to hook into this movie’s mindset, which is blissfully innocent and sincere. Outside of action movies, there probably hasn’t been a more violent film all year than “The Three Stooges,” but its constant pokes in the eye and knocks on the head are delivered with a bloodless, giddy sweetness that’s inviting rather than repellant. Inspired and tightly choreographed, the stooges’ antics have a buzzsaw comic momentum to them that makes you sit back and wonder at the sheer looniness of it all. Like with a musical, “The Three Stooges” is a feast of beautiful movement, except in this case that involves people receiving injuries that, in real life, would leave the individuals with severe brain damage.

The physical demands of these roles are impressive, but the three actors also succeed in evoking their characters’ spirit. The original Moe, Larry and Curly — played by Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard — are iconic, which could have been intimidating, but the film’s stars sidestep the problem by approaching their roles with a lot of love, not to mention a lot of skill. Diamantopoulos, Hayes and Sasso look like their counterparts, but it’s their total commitment to the film’s cheerful stupidity that really makes their camaraderie shine. In retrospect, these actors were taking an enormous risk diving headfirst into material that’s willfully juvenile and totally lacking in any sense of ironic detachment. Like the Farrelly brothers, these actors have to love the stooges’ world unabashedly for any of this to work, and it’s a credit to everyone involved — including Larry David in a supporting role as a hilariously nagging nun — that the movie’s tonal control is so complete. Everybody working on “The Three Stooges” has come together to make one of the stupidest comedies you’ll ever see — so stupid you may have a tough time stopping laughing.

Of course, “The Three Stooges” is in a fine tradition of expertly-executed moronic comedies. The filmmaking team of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker made a few great ones in the 1980s, including “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun.” Reviewing “The Naked Gun” in 1988, Roger Ebert described the experience of watching brilliantly stupid comedies better than just about anyone:

You laugh, and then you laugh at yourself for laughing. Some of the jokes are incredibly stupid. Most of them are dumber than dumb. Yet this is not simply a string of one-liners. There is a certain manic logic to the progression of the film.

That’s what “The Three Stooges” is like. Sure, there’s plenty of stuff that doesn’t work in the film. (Don’t filmmakers know that one of the reasons I love movies is that they provide me a venue where I don’t have to see members of “Jersey Shore”?) But the pure, uncomplicated joy of “The Three Stooges” is not something that’s easily replicated. So many films strive for an edgy hipness that the posturing can occasionally be unbearable. By comparison, “The Three Stooges” — despite its repetitive, brutal shenanigans — just wants to give you a big, warm hug. How can you resist?

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

E.coli-class-

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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