Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stooge Fright

Well, after the summit of Dutiful but Dumb, it's only natural to expect the next Stooge film to be at least not as good, and at most a downright letdown. All the World's a Stooge is a lot closer to the latter category, but I might just be having a bad day. Reminds me of a bad Francis Veber comedy, if he ever were to get his busy French hands on the Stooges. To be fair, there's no casual wine drinking in this one, combined with the eating of decadent French pastry... mmmmm. French pastry.


A swipe from the past at the Angelina Jolies of the world? Ouch! Well, the Mia Farrows, too. We start at the top of the American social structure, free from the wild influence of the likes of the Stooges... or so they thought! We meet a fast-talking society dame holding a cat who's about to receive a refugee from "the war torn battlefields of... somewhere." The butler prepares to alert the media. However, all is not well on the homefront: the husband, a rather working-class looking lad, or at least a lower-rung managerial type, comes barging in with a bad toothache... Did anyone notice that there's a dog sitting at the table? Must be a leftover from one of those all-dog pictures that got made back then for some reason. I think I know the reason: they were CUTE, damn it. And some people probably thought, oh my! Hollywood's got the technology to read dog's thoughts, translate them to sound waves and transfer these waves directly to celluloid? Jules Verne be damned! Mostly Southern types. The actor playing the husband is apparently a fellow named Emory Parnell. What Preston Sturges saw in him I'll never know. But the Stooges usually get saddled with rather crappy supporting players. Showbiz, baby! Emory does get to some Stooge shtick, as he ladles a bunch of alfredo sauce onto what I'm assuming is an omelette. In the next scene, it becomes a water-soaked sponge. He puts his fork in it, and water spurts all over his nice brown suit. The missus insists he goes get that bum tooth pulled, so he'll be in a good mood when the refugee arrives. Good screenwriting, baby! Before leaving, he runs afoul of a hot pancake. More Stooge shtick. Anybody can do this.
New scene: dentist office. As usual, the old, musty, rusty, moldy comedy formula of a person's name: their first initial is I (Isadore for boys, Iris for girls), and the person's last name is a verb related as roughly as possible to their profession, with "um" on the end. Jewish? In this case, the dentist's name is "I. Yankum." Precious. Probably how Isaac Asimov got his "I, Robot" title. We hear Curly grunting, as though his tooth's getting pulled. As with the beginning of Clint Eastwood's A Perfect World, the scene's not quite what we think. I dare not spoil it any further. Needles to say, Moe's in a bad mood and he gives Larry a swift kick in the ass for good measure. They play window washers, yet manage to get the dentist soaking wet instead. Exit the doctor. I should also mention that Moe tells Curly to stop falling off the scaffold. We'll leave that aside for now. So, the dentist is gone, and the Stooges are cleaning up the water they "spilled." Enter Ajax Bullion, holding his hand to his face from the pain of his tooth... We'll leave that alone for now as well, but I suppose we can safely assume that the Stooges probably did something to the secretary, and that she's now incapacitated to some capacity. Nevertheless, the guy's tooth is a humdinger, and so necessity becomes the mother of comic havoc, hopefully just this once. Since the guy insisted, whatever the Stooges do to him is nice and legal. And so, they begin to pull the bad tooth, the only way they know how... Now, here's a great screenwriting tip: watch how they do this scene. Curly finds a giant pair of oversize novelty dentures, and starts pretending they're canastas. Moe takes it and throws it onto the chair... need I tell you the second half? I think so, because it's probably the lamest example of Moe pretending he's got something stuck on/in his ass, and then yanking it out, but apparently the director didn't want to cut away that day. They do cut away when Moe sticks it on Curly's nose. Good exchange between Moe and Curly at 4:37.


Well, we're past the 5:20 mark, and we're still in the dentist office, and we're getting past the point of ridiculousness, which for the Stooges is saying a lot. Ajax now has a mouth full of dentist cement, and they've probably pulled the wrong tooth. Larry tells Curly, "You stripped his gears!" Did the guy have dentures? I still don't get that one. Anyway, cement in the mouth, but it's dried too fast! They can't put his teeth back! They try drilling with a power drill. Curly gets an idea: "We'll have to blast." They go with Curly's idea. Long story short, the Stooges' brief flirtation with dentistry ends, they dive out the window onto the scaffold, and down the side of the building they go. Meanwhile, there's an explosion, and Mr. Bullion is totally okay. Now, I'm probably getting ahead of myself, but there was one time the Stooges took an engine out of a car, but the guy was able to get in and drive off. However, he drove only a short ways, leaving engine parts trailing behind him. As for Mr. Bullion's brush with Stooge dentistry, he manages to keep going. All a little too neat, but the biggest hole in the plot is yet to come, my friends.
Scene: outside Jerome's Inc. Department Store... an investment of Curly's, perhaps? The boys drop a bucket on Officer Bud Jamison's head, then their scaffolding lands on his back. They take off running, hiding in some guy's car. The guy shows up: Ajax Bullion. Small worlds make for big laughs, apparently. As fate would have it, Moe must've read his thesaurus that day and he declares that the three of them are... yup! You guessed it. Refugees. Ajax, proving himself to be the fourth Stooge, indeed, offers to take the Stooges to his house. That'll show the missus!... I guess.
And so, halfway into Act Two, we have the big test of our suspension of disbelief. The Stooges are dressed up as children, Larry in a giant girl's dress. Moe and Curly have some nice choreography at 8:16. Take that, Fosse! Larry gets slapped for saying "Leave him alone!", and rightly so, I'm afraid. Anyway, the moment arrives when the missus meets the Stooges, introduced as three "refugees." No buyer's remorse here, no questioning that they're adults rather than children. Curly gets caught up in the moment, saying "Mammy" several times, in a performance that no one's allowed to like in this day and age. We grow so weary of flop sweat in this age of post-internet ennui. The triumph of Steven Wright. James Gunn's Super obviously borrowed from where Curly ends up knocking over the chair the missus is sitting in, WITH THE MISSUS STILL IN IT. He falls as well; otherwise it wouldn't be funny. The butler says "Luncheon is served." Butlers never learn to not say that when the Stooges are in a room. This butler somehow doesn't get knocked over when the boys run past him... you know what? This one's not one of my favorites, and it is past my bedtime, so I'm going to cut this short. A Stooge film can't be good when the big pie fight only has one pie thrown in it. One pie thrown by the Stooges, one ax thrown AT the Stooges in response. I'm never watching this one again.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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