It took a decade of rewrites and casting changes to bring The Three Stooges, a labour of love for the Farrelly brothers, to fruition, with Jim Carrey, Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro all linked to the project at one stage or another.
And although some may say those actors have dodged a bullet by ducking out of a film that so fully commits to the silly slapstick and old-fashioned farce of the original, we suspect if Carrey had been involved, this would have taken on the unreined-in tone of, say, an Adam Sandler movie.
Actually, it is surprisingly, sensibly restrained and rather touching. In relative terms, of course.
The Farrellys have, in an attempt to emulate the original vaudeville shorts, sliced the film up into three little films in one, with one continuous narrative thread throughout. The three friends (in some of the originals they were related, in some they weren’t) are dumped at an orphanage in infancy, where they quickly prove to be a handful none of the nuns can handle.
Particularly keen to send the three boys packing (or men, as they become, still institutionalized) is Sister Mary-Mengele, played by Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David in an absurd role that you can’t help but feels his Curb persona would baulk at.
Still there’s fun to be had here, especially in the form of bad jokes and in Jane Lynch (Glee’s Sue Sylvester) as a very saintly and not at all Sue-like Mother Superior.
When the boys go off into the big wide world to try to save the orphanage from ruin and get duped by evil beauty Lydia (Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara) it’s physical comedy overload, with lots of eye-pokes, pans over the head and loud “bang” noises.
And yet there’s something touching and sincere about it. All three mains (Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos) play their roles well and faithfully to their famous predecessors, especially Diamantopoulos, who must manage to be both fool and inherent leader – and does.
Of course, if you don’t like slapstick, the cartoonish physical violence and loud “boinks” every five second are going to do nothing but annoy you. But if you liked Moe, Larry and Curly the first time round, there’s a good chance you’ll like them this time too.