The Three Stooges marks the Farrelly brothers’ 10th live-action feature film.
Sadly, hitting that double-figures milestone hasn’t inspired a return to form.
Instead, we have a misguided attempt to resurrect the titular slapstick trio, who hit peak popularity on screen back in the 1930s. Trouble is, Moe, Curly and Larry’s childlike squabbles were designed for shorts.
There are only so many three-way nose-tweaks you can take, and the Farrellys’ idea of splitting the film into three nominal episodes doesn’t really solve the problem.
The first segment, ‘More Orphan Than Not’, sets out the paper-thin plot: thanks to their accident-prone antics, the Stooges’ Catholic orphanage home (run by Mother Superior Jane Lynch) will close in 30 days, unless they find $830k.
With a plot that sounds suspiciously lifted from The Blues Brothers , so begins a decidedly hit-and-miss affair as the “pure of heart and dim of wit” threesome set out on a cash-raising odyssey.
Credit where it’s due, though: the three stars - Sean Hayes (smart-mouthed Larry), Will Sasso (baldy dimbo Curly) and Chris Diamantopoulos (self-styled leader Moe) - look and sound close to their 1930s counterparts.
Yet while the physical routines are well choreographed, it’s not enough to drag us through 90 formless minutes.
The rest of the gags are either groan-worthy (Curly thinks an iPhone works by putting his eye to it), cringe-inducing (using a baby’s pee as a water pistol) or just plain odd (like the ‘don’t try this at home, kids’ postscript).
Even if you do get to see Larry David dressed as a mean-spirited nun or Moe slap the reality TV stars of Jersey Shore , it fails to enliven what is ultimately a sad, stale comedy.
The jokes pile up and the laughs dry up; only unsophisticated under-10s need apply.