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?


Grow TFU

Adulting Like You Mean It

Commuters makes its debut on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Jared Warner, Nick Ciavarella, and Tim Dean were once a part of Murderfist, a group of comedy writers, actors, producers, parents, and reluctant adults. Together with InstaMiniSeries’s Nikki Borges, they’re making their IFC Comedy Crib debut with the refreshingly-honest and joyfully-hilarious Commuters. The webseries follows thirtysomethings Harris and Olivia as they brave the waters of true adulthood, and it’s right on point.

Jared, Nick, Nikki and Tim were kind enough to answer a few questions about Commuters for us. Here’s a snippet of that conversation…


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

Nick: Two 30-somethings leave the Brooklyn life behind, and move to the New Jersey suburbs in a forced attempt to “grow up.” But they soon find out they’ve got a long way to go to get to where they want to be.

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

Jared: It’s a show about how f*cking stupid people who think they are smart can be.

IFC: What’s your origin story? When did you all meet and how long have you been working together?

Jared: Nick, Tim, and I were all in the sketch group Murderfist since, what, like 2004? God. Anyway, Tim and Nick left the group to pursue other frivolous things, like children and careers, but we all enjoyed writing together and kept at it. We were always more interested in storytelling than sketch comedy lends itself to, which led to our webseries Jared Posts A Personal. That was a show about being in your 20s and embracing the chaos of being young in the city. Commuters is the counterpoint, i guess. Our director Adam worked at Borders (~THE PAST!!~) with Tim, came out to a Murderfist show once, and we’ve kept him imprisoned ever since.

IFC: What was the genesis of Commuters?

Tim: Jared had an idea for a series about the more realistic, less romantic aspects of being in a serious relationship.  I moved out of the city to the suburbs and Nick got engaged out in LA.   We sort of combined all of those facets and Commuters was the end result.

IFC: How would Harris describe Olivia?

Jared: Olivia is the smartest, coolest, hottest person in the world, and Harris can’t believe he gets to be with her, even though she does overreact to everything and has no chill. Like seriously, ease up. It doesn’t always have to be ‘a thing.’

IFC: How would Olivia describe Harris?

Nikki:  Harris is smart, confident with a dry sense of humor but he’s also kind of a major chicken shit…. Kind of like if Han Solo and Barney Rubble had a baby.

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

Nikki:  I think this is the most accurate portrayal of what a modern relationship looks like. Expectations for what your life is ‘supposed to look like’ are confusing and often a let down but when you’re married to your best friend, it’s going to be ok because you will always find a way to make each other laugh.

IFC: Is the exciting life of NYC twentysomethings a sweet dream from which we all must awake, or is it a nightmare that we don’t realize is happening until it’s over?

Tim: Now that i’ve spent time living in the suburbs, helping to raise a two year old, y’all city folk have no fucking clue how great you’ve got it.

Nikki: I think of it similar to how I think about college. There’s a time and age for it to be glorious but no one wants to hang out with that 7th year senior. Luckily, NYC is so multifaceted that you can still have an exciting life here but it doesn’t have to be just what the twentysomethings are doing (thank god).

Jared: New York City is a garbage fire.

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


C'mon Fellas

A Man Mansplains To Men

Why Baroness von Sketch Show is a must-see.

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Mansplaining is when a man takes it upon himself to explain something to a woman that she already knows. It happens a lot, but it’s not going to happen here. Ladies, go ahead and skip to the end of this post to watch a free episode of IFC’s latest addition, Baroness von Sketch Show.

However, if you’re a man, you might actually benefit from a good mansplanation. So take a knee, lean in, and absorb the following wisdom.

No Dicks

Baroness von Sketch Show is made entirely by women, therefore this show isn’t focused on men. Can you believe it? I know what you’re thinking: how will we know when to laugh if the jokes aren’t viewed through the dusty lens of the patriarchy? Where are the thinly veiled penis jokes? Am I a bad person? In order: you will, nowhere, and yes.

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Huge Balls

Did you know that there’s more to life than poop jokes, sex jokes, body part jokes? I mean, those things are all really good things, natch, and totally edgy. But Baroness von Sketch Show does something even edgier. It holds up a brutal funhouse mirror to our everyday life. This is a bulls**t world we made, fellas.


Oh Canada

After you watch the Canadian powerhouses of Baroness von Sketch Show and think to yourself “Dear god, this is so real” and “I’ve gotta talk about this,” do yourself a favor and think a-boot your options: Refrain from sharing your sage wisdom with any woman anywhere (believe us, she gets it). Instead, tell a fellow bro and get the mansplaining out of your system while also spreading the word about a great show.

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Dudes, that’s the deal.
Women, start reading again here:

Check out the preview episode of Baroness von Sketch Show and watch the series premiere August 2 on IFC.


Happy Tears

Binge Don’t Cringe

Catch up on episodes of Documentary Now! and Portlandia.

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Photo Credit: GIFs via GIPHY

A brain can only take so much.

Every five minutes, all day, every day, ludicrously stressful headlines push our mental limits as we struggle to adapt to a reality that seems increasingly less real. What’s a mind to do when simple denial just isn’t good enough anymore?

Radical suggestion: repeal and replace. And by that we mean take all the bad news that keeps you up at night, press pause, and substitute it with some genuine (not nervous, for a change) laughter. Here are some of the issues on our mind.

Gender Inequality

Feminist bookstore owners by day, still feminist bookstore owners by night, Toni and Candace show the male gaze who’s boss. Learn about their origin story (SPOILER: there’s an epic dance battle) and see what happens when their own brand of empowerment gets out of hand.


From Candace’s heart attack to the rise of the rawvolution, this Portlandia episode proves that healthcare is vital.

Peaceful Protests

Too many online petitions, too little time? Get WOKE with Fred and Carrie when they learn how to protest.

What Could Have Been

Can’t say the name “Clinton” without bursting into tears? Documentary Now!’s masterfully political “The Bunker” sheds a cozy new light on the house that Bill and Hill built. Just pretend you don’t know how the story really ends.

Fake News

A healthy way to break the high-drama news cycle is to switch over to “Dronez”, which has all the thrills of ubiquitous adventure journalism without any of the customary depression.

The more you watch, the better you feel. So get started on past episodes of Documentary Now! and Portlandia right now at IFC.com and the IFC app.

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