Something just occurred to me... why didn't Rob Schneider lobby a little harder to play Larry in the up-and-coming Farrelly brothers Three Stooges movie? Shame. Probably because Adam Sandler wasn't offered the Moe part. What could've been. Thank God some of the cast of Jersey Shore is in it, though! Stooges, time to meet herpes!
Well, you've got to hand it to those Stooges: they never had any pretensions about their place in the heavily stratified world of show business. Here they start off as three cleaning men about to lose their jobs cleaning the office of... wait for it... B.O. Botswaddle, head of Columbia Pictures... I mean, Super Terrific Productions, a studio that probably could've bought up Columbia at the time. For some reason, that comedy name makes me think of Billy Gilbert's name in The Music Box, which was... hold on while I look it up... I think it's Theodore von Schwarzenhoffen, ADA, DDS, FLD, FFF&F... something like that. Man, that dude was pissed. Pissed off, not drunk. Anyway, back to Three Missing Links. One thing I know for sure is that parts of Act One are featured in Lethal Weapon 2, when Mel Gibson rightly throws away the remote when he finds a Stooge film on the ol' boob tube. Only Richard Donner could broker that deal, showing parts of a Columbia pic in a Warner Bros. flick... or maybe Spielberg made the call.
James C. Morton plays long suffering studio head B.O. Botswaddle. He's having trouble with his leading lady, Mirabel Mirabel and his new pic set in Africa. He paces up and down his office with the director by his side, screaming "Where is Mirabelle Mirabelle?" Only James C. Morton could pull that line off. Mirabelle squared eventually shows up, and the three of them get to work rehearsing before heading off to "Africa." The Stooges show up with their office-cleaning gear, ready to destroy... I mean, clean the office. Botswaddle tells them to be quiet. Boy, he must've fallen off the turnip truck. Larry helpfully offers, "We'll be as quiet as a mouse." Curly says "Yeah! A deaf and dumb mouse." The political incorrectness escalates from there, needles to say. The producer, director and Mirabelle Mirabelle must have a very, very high tolerance for noise and disruption, because the Stooges end up very far from quiet. Moe delivers an Oscar-worthy performance when he bursts into a rare rage, screaming "GIMME THE BUCKET! GIMME THE BUCKET!" He throws the bucket at Curly, but it instead goes through the nice pristine glass door. In any other business, they'd end up fired or worse, but this is showbiz, and Curly ends up eventually impressing the producer and director. At first, after experiencing Curly's imitation of a chicken with its head cut off (the camera wisely is up high off the ground and far back to show Curly in all his velocity-driven glory), the director says "Let me kill him... Just once, it won't cost much." Curly then launches into dog-gorilla fighting mode... just what the Africa pic needs. The six of them end up toasting their new-found venture... Curly gets the gin and ink drink he prepared earlier.
You might've noticed that some of Curly's noises during his headless chicken dance were repeated. This is a Stooge film! That's merely the beginning of the repeating sounds...
The Stooges and crew end up in "Africa," or a moderately-dressed set on Cannery Row. It's big enough so that the boys can do some damage over a good distance. Curly helps the boys find some water... in a water-drenched tree. Moe and Larry, enraged, chase Curly into another tree. Curly slows down before hitting it. The three knuckleheads make their way to a medicine man's hut. There must be a special place in Hell for African American actors who've appeared in Stooge films... I mean, besides the Stooge films themselves. Anyway, the medicine man's a cannibal, and sets his sights on Curly first. Well, apparently the mosquitoes love the big, fatty Americans that travel abroad. Quite tasty! As George Carlin once mused, how do you decide who to eat first? Do you pick on the skinny guy because he can't fight back, or do you all gang up on the bodybuilder because he's got a lot of steaks and chops on him? The Stooges helpfully offer up each other to the medicine man, citing their own unique animal spirit guides in the process. That's loyalty for you. Was I the only one who thought of Rob Schneider's capering in Judge Dredd when he and Sly ran afoul of some cannibals? It's probably a 99.7% chance with a Confidence Interval of 95, but hey, that's just elementary statistics. Fortunately for Curly, he happens upon some love candy. The medicine man describes its effect: "Love candy. Make big strong love." I don't know how that got past the Hays Office, but God bless them for missing it. In the end, capitalism made its way to the heart of darkest Africa, and the medicine man takes payment for a handful of love candy, and puts it in a cash register. Hooray, small business! And now, back to the cannibalism... poke in the medicine man's eyes, exit stage left.
Every once in a while, a Stooge makes a genuine noise of complaint when getting hit. In this case, Curly's plaintiff wails of thwarted love ring true when, after Curly tells Moe he's going to give Mirabelle Mirabelle some love candy, Moe orders him back to work with a slap to boot. Larry has a similar moment when Moe winds up to hit Curly and gets hit his own damn self. Curly runs afoul of some comedy stakes he's trying to keep in the ground. The boys have a special tent that needs double tethering... oh no. Not the lion licking their bare feet gag! Larry gets a positively Shakespearean moment before the big reveal: he says "I do not snore! Why, I stayed awake all last night to see if I snored, and I didn't." Why, that's got to be the biggest speech he's ever given!
The day of the big shoot, and we see the director moving some stuff around the set. Boy, what a shoestring production this is. Moe and Larry play cavemen in this pic, and Mirabel Mirabel looks positively fetching in a leopard-skin outfit. James C. Morton must be a white glove producer, for he's nowhere to be found. Curly's getting dressed up in his gorilla costume when... wait for it... a "REAL" gorilla shows up. COMEDY!!! Then again, if this were a drama, would not the same thing happen? I wonder if Woody Allen has ever considered this possibility, possibly with Will Ferrell in the cast... Anyway, you can imagine the comedic possibilities of two gorillas in one pic, but I'm just going to mention one that reminded me of the movie Ronin when Sean Bean gets kicked out of the group for his Stooge-like idea, because Moe and Larry implement it here. They're each at the mouth of a cave with guns pointed at each other's hats. Curly, imbued with powerful temporary psychic gifts, hits the ground as he's running out of the cave. Moe and Larry end up shooting each other's hats off. The love candy ends up closing the pic.
All in all, I gotta say... I think this is a four-star Stooge pic! You got the bare essentials, and just enough uneasiness to offend today's P.C. crowd. What's not to like? Probably the Stooges' ad-libbing, but their laughter seemed real when the lion was licking their feet.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan