This week's Stooge film is called Grips, Grunts and Groans. A very Stooge-y title, indeed. Co-written by Herman Boxer, the boys team up with a wrestler in this one. We start with iconic stock footage of a train pulling into the station. Then we see some iconic railroad bulls politely asking the iconic Stooges to come out of the boxcar so they can get beaten with iconic clubs. The bulls end up hitting each other over each other's heads. Always gotta love that.
Now, look closely, and you'll see it's three pretend Stooges running towards the camera, then to the left, tripping over a baby carriage. Time for the Speed playbook. Remember in Speed? A baby carriage gets smacked by the bus. Fortunately, it was just, as Keanu made as painfully clear as possible, full of cans. Tragedy averted, the moral pendulum of the universe back firmly in the center. In this case, tragedy is NOT averted. Fortunately, we don't get a close-up of the child in the carriage, and that's probably for the best.
Anyway, as often happens in these things, the initial chase sequence brings them to the set and setting that will occupy the rest of the film. This time it's a very well guarded gym for boxers and wrestlers. Moe and Larry immediately sell Curly out for five bucks. "If I'm gonna get beat up, I wanna get paid for it!" he helpfully offers after being repeatedly hit, choked, and generally humiliated.
We meet a flamboyant wrestler named Bustoff who does a lot of laughing and has a big beard. Now, if one were more cynical, unlike me, one might think the guy kinda looks like Curly, only with that beard. They form a symbiosis of sorts. The wrestler keeps saying "I like you guys!", hits 'em a lot, but takes them out for a big meal. And the promise of seeing pretty girls.
In another ambitious plot development, Curly runs afoul of a bottle of Wild Hyacinth perfume. This drives him crazy much like the mouse in that Western pic, and the anthemic "Pop Goes the Weasel" in Punch Drunks. The antidote in this situation is to tickle Curly's foot. His right foot, more specifically. Bustoff drinks too much, passes out, and the boys drag him back to the ring.
The stakes are raised when the bad guys, Bustoff's manager, gets an offer to double his bet on Bustoff. Bustoff regains consciousness and asks for a drink. Curly manages to inadvertently drop three dumbbells onto Bustoff's head. Larry finally gets some lines, as Moe has gone to look for something. They end up dropping the locker onto Bustoff as well. Larry and Curly lift it back into place, pretending it's heavy.
Moe comes back, and the three of them run around the lockers for way too long. They had to re-dub Curly's voice. Larry tries to escape through the barred window, and screams in pain a little louder than usual.
At around this time, the role-playing idea is bourne. They cut off Bustoff's beard, glue it to Curly, and head out to the ring. Curly gets caught up in the ring ropes, naturally. The stock footage of the audience doesn't allow them to laugh at this. Curly gets thrown out of the ring, and lands head first into a folding chair. As the boys try to lift him out, Curly repeatedly hits his chin on the chair. A classic Stooge moment. Curly makes his way back into the ring. The other guy starts turning his foot 360 degrees. As Curly writhes in agony, he reaches for... no, not wild hyacinth perfume. That comes later. He reaches for a lady's sandwich and sody pop bottle, which he empties and smashes over his opponent's head. Much like today, there are obviously no rules in wrestling. Moe finds wild hyacinth perfume, conveniently at ringside being applied by a demure lady. Moe goes up into the ring to give Curly the wild hyacinth. No rules in wrestling. The stock footage crowd doesn't notice. Moe splashes the other guy in the face accidentally with wild hyacinth. This makes the guy smile, but otherwise he develops no superpowers, fortunately for Curly. Curly then gets a faceful of the stuff, and the deus ex machina is set in motion. Curly beats up his opponent, then Moe and Larry who try in vain to tickle Curly's foot. Curly then grabs the bell and starts beating people in the head with it. The audience seems to rush into the ring only to get beaten unconscious by Curly and his bell. By the time the film's over, there's a rather large mound of unconscious victims in the ring. Fortunately, Curly knocks himself at least half-way out when the bell flies straight up into the air, and back down on his head.
I used to think Bull Durham was the greatest sports movie ever made... even though I never actually saw it. Then I thought it was one of Ben Stiller's seven features from 2004, Dodgeball. Now I think it just might be the Stooges' Grips, Grunts and Groans. For one thing, even the damn title smacks of the Stooge aesthetic. No confusing this for a Ritz brothers comedy, that's for sure! ... and that's all the arguments I can think of at the moment. Actually, in general I don't care much for sports movies. Too predictable.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan