The Three Stooges, written and directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, is a contemporary take on the Three Stooges, a slapstick trio who performed from the 1940s to the 1960s. The (complicated) story is presented in three acts, which are designed to be like the original format of the Stooges’ short movies. The first segment, ‘More Orphan then Not’, opens when Moe, Curly and Larry are dumped as babies outside the Sisters of Mercy orphanage. At first, the nuns think the three babies are a gift from the angels, but later realise that the three unusual children will be a liability. Years pass and the accident-prone boys stay at the orphanage, because their strange appearance and behaviour frighten off potential adoptive parents. When the brothers are 10, Moe is selected for adoption. But he insists that his prospective parents also take Curly and Larry, so the couple decides to swap him for another orphan, Teddy (Kirby Heyborne). At this point, the movie jumps 25 years into the future. Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), Curly (Will Sasso) and Larry (Sean Hayes) still live at the orphanage. They discover that the institution is almost bankrupt and will be closed unless its debts of $830 000 can be paid.
The second act, ‘The Banana Split’, is about the Stooges leaving the orphanage to raise the money. They advertise their need to find paid work and are approached by a couple who wants to hire them for a contract killing. The woman (Sofia Vergara) doesn’t identify herself and explains that her husband is terminally ill. He wants the Stooges to kill him to stop his suffering. While they’re all discussing this proposition, the Stooges accidentally bump into the woman’s ‘husband’ (Craig Bierko). He falls under a bus and is almost killed.
In the final act, ‘No Moe Mister Nice Guy’, the Stooges are still roaming the streets looking for ways to raise money for the orphanage. They meet up with Teddy (Kirby Heyborne). When Teddy realises the men are homeless, he asks them to stay with him, but Moe still resents Teddy and refuses. The Stooges get into an argument, and then Moe leaves Curly and Larry. It turns out that some TV producers saw the argument, and they ask Moe to join the set of a new reality TV show. While Moe becomes a celebrity, Curly and Larry stumble onto the sinister truth about the secretive couple they met earlier. Curly and Larry decide to find Moe, so they can all work together to save Teddy, who they realise is in grave danger.
In the tradition of ‘slapstick’ comedy, this movie has almost constant physical and verbal violence. For example:
- Moe slaps, kicks, punches, eye-gouges and yells at Curly or Larry. They do it back to him.
- Moe hits Curly and Larry on the head and neck with a sledge-hammer.
- Moe pulls out tufts of Larry’s hair.
- Moe rips out Curly’s nose hairs.
- Moe hits Larry and Curly under the nose.
- Moe repeatedly scrapes an unidentified man’s bare foot with a cheese grater.
- Moe puts a woman’s tongue in a home-made vice.
- Moe jams a microwave oven over an unidentified man’s head and then turns it on.
- Sister Mary (Larry David) uses a large block of timber to knock out the legs of a bench the Stooges are sleeping on. Then she threatens the Stooges with the timber.
- Moe and Curly use Larry as a battering ram to open a steel door.
- Moe holds a pillow over Mac’s head to smother him.
- Moe pushes a security guard into a large metal plate, which stops his heart. In response, Moe orders Curly and Larry to get the ‘paddles’. These turn out to be hot irons, which are placed on the man’s bare chest.
- Mac teases and hits a chained lion.
- Mac points a gun at the Stooges.
- Mr Harter (Stephen Collins) points a gun at Mac.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under the age of five. For example, an enraged lion snarls and lashes at Mac.
In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:
- Moe is separated from Curly and Larry when they’re still boys.
- The Stooges throw a live lobster and octopus across a room.
- Hundreds of salmon flap on the dry grass in an open paddock. Subsequent scenes show them drying out, until they die and flies circle over their bodies.
- The Stooges keep squeezing a dolphin to get a peanut out of its blowhole.
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:
- The Stooges fall several storeys from a hospital roof.
- A metal church bell falls from the church roof and hits Sister Mary on the head.
- Mac falls under a speeding bus. He’s dragged underneath for several metres, and then gets caught under the revolving brushes of a street-sweeping truck.
- The Stooges, Lydia, Mac and Mr Harter crash their car through a bridge guardrail and get trapped underwater.
- A girl is carried metres up into the air by a bunch of helium balloons. Moe shoots the balloons, and the girl falls through the air. She lands laughing in a giant cake.
There are no other scenes in this movie that might scare or disturb children in this age group.
This movie has some sexual references. For example:
- Curly accuses a priest of attempting to ‘get all handsy’ with the nuns.
- Mac bumps Lydia’s breast, which honks.
- Curly calls Lydia ‘Legs’.
- A hospital attendant asks Curly out for a date when Curly is disguised as a woman. The attendant says, ‘I like a heavy woman’.
- A live lobster is out down Larry’s trousers, and he sings out in a high-pitched voice.
- A child bounces across Mac (who is lying on the road) with a pogo stick, hitting him in the testicles.
- A peanut shoots through the air and gets stuck in a lion’s bottom.
There is also a scene where the Stooges are covered in baby wee. They use boy babies as water pistols, to target each other with wee.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie shows some use of substances. For example, characters talk about Fosters beer. There are also some party scenes that show adults drinking alcohol.
Nudity and sexual activity
This movie doesn’t show any nudity or sexual activity directly. But several of the women characters wear tight, revealing clothing. There’s also one scene showing Lydia and Mac hugging and kissing.
No products are displayed or used in this movie. But the characters talk about Fosters beer, and one scene shows a Guinness baseball cap. The movie also shows Andy Warhol-style pop art, and characters talk about the movie Star Wars and the TV shows The Kardashians and Jersey Shore. There’s also one musical scene with a singing nun, which is a bit like the Sister Act movies.
The movie doesn’t have any coarse language, but it does have several put-downs and some threats.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Three Stooges is a ‘slapstick’ comedy with a lot of violence. Although many of the violent scenes are funny, and quite true to the style of the original Three Stooges’ movies, the constant punching, slapping and eye-gouging might not be appropriate for children. It’s likely that many children won’t be able to see beyond the violence to get the underlying messages about loyalty and teamwork.
At the end of the movie, directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly come on screen to talk briefly about how the violent stunts were performed. They say that viewers shouldn’t try to copy the stunts. But this direct message might not be enough to balance the constant violence that we’ve been encouraged to laugh at throughout the movie.
Values in this movie that you can reinforce with your children include teamwork and loyalty.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues and questions. For example:
- The violence in the movie doesn’t have realistic consequences. What would happen in real life if you behaved as violently as the characters in the movie do? You could ask your children about other, non-violent ways to sort out problems.
- What are the benefits of learning how to share and work together?