(2005, Comedy, colorized)
Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett
In a nutshell:
The Brothers Howard afflict each other with humorous violence.
The lack of a quote above is intentional. The Stooges don’t say a lot that is funny. The things they do, however, are hilarious. In fact, the whole format needs to be different for this review, as this is a different sort of Rifftrax. It’s kind of a stretch to consider this a Rifftrax at all, since no one talks during the various short films. No one needs to, as the Stooges are funny enough without embellishment, and probably no one should, as the pure physical humor probably wouldn’t mix well with the Film Crew’s more articulate brand of comedy.
What we have instead is a series of host segments to introduce and expound upon the showcased short films. Mike, Kevin, and Bill are enthusiastic while they share one of their favorite comedy troupes. So we get to see the Stooges do what they do best (i.e. hurt each other in amusing ways) and the Film Crew do what they do best (i.e. talk about movies). It’s the best of both worlds.
Host Segment One:
The Film Crew gathers in the basement to watch movies. Kevin has a whole stack of chick flicks. Mike throws them away. Mike has the Legend Films version of Reefer Madness. Kevin disdainfully notes that it has “some guy talking over it,” and throws it away. Bill suggests the Three Stooges. After some discussion, they agree that Curly’s head looks like “one cheek of a shaved ass.” This appears to be as good a reason as any to watch them.
First Short: Disorder in the Court
Larry, Moe, and Curly are called as witnesses at a murder trial. Testimony involves an impromptu burlesque act, the shooting death of a toupee, and Moe crushing Curly’s head in a letter press. Eventually, everyone realizes that the parrot has the key to solving the crime. Curly knocks out half the jury with a mallet and then hoses down the courtroom in the process of catching it.
Host Segment Two:
Bill admiringly notes that Curly has “the robust mirth of Falstaff, the voice of Cyndi Lauper, and the iron crotch of Johnny Knoxville.” Kevin notes that next short features Shemp instead, prompting dismay from his fellow crewmen. Kevin gradually draws them back in with a chart that confirms Shemp Howard as the ugliest entity ever to exist in the universe. The others somehow accept this as a reason to watch him. Bill admits that he’s now even excited to watch the “vomitous, oil-soaked little troll.”
Second Short: Sing a Song of Six Pants
If Larry, Moe, and Shemp don’t come up with three hundred dollars by tomorrow, they’ll lose their dry-cleaning/tailoring business to the bank. As luck would have it, a wanted bank robber with a price on his head comes to hide in their very shop. There are some close calls and mistaken identities, but eventually the gangsters confront the tailors in a fight of eye-gouging, crotch-kicking, head-in-the-steam-press-pressing mayhem. They catch the robber, but the cop who arrives to arrest him takes the reward for himself. Fortunately, Shemp pocketed some of the robber’s ill-gotten gains just before the arrest.
Host Segment Three:
The Film Crew provides a public service announcement to promote awareness of the dangers of living with Moe. After a handy checklist to determine whether or not you are, in fact, living with Moe (and not a similar-looking person such as Emo Phillips or Ken Burns), they go over what you should do if summoned by Moe. Don’t go. There is no safe way to approach Moe. Mike demonstrates this by poking Bill in the eyes many, many times.
Third Short: Malice in the Palace
Vaguely Middle-Eastern men (sort of a stagy Arab/Indian/Scottish mix, actually) meet at a restaurant to go over their plans to steal a legendary jewel. The conspiracy gets interrupted many, many times by their bumbling waiters Larry, Moe, and Shemp. The showcase bit is when circumstances cause Moe and Shemp to believe that Larry has killed a dog and a cat to make their food. The dog and cat in question then sit under the table during dinner, making their various noises whenever someone tries to take a bite. Eventually the conspirators leave in shame, and the Stooges all dress like Santa Claus to recover the jewel from a wealthy sheik-ish short of person.
Host Segment Four:
In order to dispel the myth that the Stooges only appeal to men, Kevin dresses up as a woman to declare that he likes them too. When pressed to prove that he really is a woman in increasingly humiliating ways, he says, “Bite my ovaries, chief,” and starts a game of pool.
Fourth Short: The Brideless Groom
Music Teacher Shemp takes a break from teaching his shrillest, most annoying student to hear the latest news from Moe—an uncle has died, and his will states that Shemp will inherit half a million dollars if he gets married before the end of the day. After the Stooges injure themselves and each other making him presentable, Shemp proposes to every girl he knows, but the only one who’ll accept is his shrillest, most annoying music student. A Justice of the Peace tries to solemnize the union, but news of the $500k has leaked; the ceremony is mobbed with women, each demanding that Shemp marry her instead. Shemp finally agrees to marry the one who crushes his head in a letter press, but it’s not to be. The fight finally ends when he marries the music student after all.
Host Segment Five:
Bill and Kevin try to bid us adieu, but Mike wants to dedicate a segment to Larry. Bill notes that Larry is the blandest stooge, and could just as easily have been played by “a potted plant in a fright wig.” Mike insists, and shows the folks at home how to make a Larry doll out of a Popsicle stick, a pipe cleaner, a grape, and some dryer lint. Kevin and Bill throw away his dolls and doll making materials, and say goodbye.
This is actually the first time I’ve seen an entire Three Stooges short, let alone four. (For the record, I’ve never watched the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, or Laurel and Hardy either…aside from the occasional appearances on Scooby Doo, which probably don’t count. My education, as it pertains to early and mid twentieth century comedians, is sadly lacking.) My own tastes run toward more articulate humor, but I still enjoy them in the way that I’ll enjoy almost anything if it’s well done, and these guys are very, very good at what they do. Also, I know a woman who likes the Three Stooges. She is my wife, who had never seen them before either, but laughed very hard when Shemp’s hot dog appeared to bark at him. That Shemp is no Curly, though.
So yeah, only three stars, but that’s more a matter of personal taste than any specific flaw.
(2005, Comedy, colorized)