Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Stooges go to prison...

I almost remembered the title of the film I was thinking of that sort of parallels this week's Stooge film, So Long, Mr. Chumps. It's a film from 2006 called Let's Go To Prison. At the time, the airwaves were carpet-bombed with TV trailers for the movie, and I couldn't help but think to myself that... well, it just didn't look good. Even the normally ultra-reliable Dylan Baker couldn't rise above the lines he was given, and Chi McBride was given a thankless role. Then I actually saw part of the film: the premise involves a guy who CHOOSES to go to prison in order to see a guy that he had framed, and to watch him suffer some more. That was the main part that I had a problem with, the rest of the film aside. As it turns out, it's a premise as old as prisons themselves...


We start out innocently enough with the Stooges in an unusual occupation: cleaning up messes they didn't even make. The three of them work over the same littered stretch of wide studio lot street. Each has a giant pushbroom, and... SPOILER ALERT, the three of them collide, letting out the loud "woodblock" sound. Curly says "Swing it!", so Moe kicks Curly in the ass. And rightfully so, frankly. It's about this point that the three split up to cause more damage. Curly tussles with a large truck, and Larry ends up accidentally spearing Moe in the ass with one of those pointy stick things that garbagemen sometimes use to pick up garbage. No reprisal for Larry; not on-screen, anyway.
It escalates from there. Curly runs afoul of a particularly clingy piece of flypaper. Moe looks on angrily as Curly struggles with it... guess what happens next? Let me put it this way: usually, Larry ends up getting his hair stuck and torn. They decided to switch it up this time. From there, we find the story strand that will carry us through the rest of the pic: Curly looks down and finds an envelope full of oil bonds amongst the street rubbish. Screenwriter Clyde Bruckman couldn't help but pay homage to Sherlock Jr., in which close to the same thing happens to Buster. Just money back in Buster's day, not your fancy modern oil bonds. Curly ends up in a heavily over-watered patch of grass and tries to take a bath. Larry takes considerable exception to this. Curly ends up slapping Moe in the face, runs away, and runs back toward the camera, using the grass as a slip and slide, but doesn't end up paralyzing himself, thankfully.
This is probably where Act Two should be, but I'm going to wait until the 5:40 mark or so. Fortunately for the Stooges, the envelope of oil bonds is marked with a name and address. The Stooges return the oil bonds to their rightful owner. The rightful owner, one Mr. B.O. Davis, gives the Stooges a reward and tasks them with finding "an honest man." You'd think that what the Stooges did would qualify them, but this possibility is ultimately not considered. There's no film otherwise... oh, right, an honest man with "executive ability." In other words, do what your local oligarchs tell you to do. How hard is that? I guess the Republicans don't want to hold up So Long, Mr. Chumps as an example of how well our current system works. It's far too common. For example, Moe asks "Can we have some money on account?" Curly's proviso: "Yeah, on account of we're broke." Of course, Curly also just tried to eat a banana peel, throwing away the soft, icky inner part.


Might as well break it here. We start Act Two with the Stooges having put their new money immediately to work: each is wearing a nice fur coat and a tall top hat. But this is most certainly not the time for a pie fight. Not with actual nice clothes. They're busy trying to find an honest man with executive ability by leaving a wallet on the sidewalk. Sounds better than any employment agency to me. Professor Moe explains: "An honest man will return the wallet. A dishonest man will keep it." The first customer's kinda funny: a blind man with a cane spies the wallet, and grabs the money, running away before the Stooges can grab him. They get the second guy by putting gun powder in the wallet, and activating the gun powder with a battery. Eat your shirt, MacGruber! They've got the wallet attached to a wire and not a string, by the way. I always leave out the important details like that. The man manages to escape, but leaves behind him a smoldering pair of pants. "This is disgusting!", quips Moe. Time is stretched out as Moe and Curly fight over Curly's wanting to smoke a cigar.
Fortunately, fate steps in to help the boys on their quest to find an honest man. It's kind of a shaggy dog story... in that it involves an actual shaggy dog. A dog picks up their wallet and hands it to the boys. The dog signals with his tail (on a wire, perhaps?) for the Stooges to follow. The dog leads them to a distraught woman. The woman tells the Stooges that her sweetheart, Percy Pomeroy, is an honest man, but he's currently languishing in jail, wrongfully accused. Executive ability is left out of the equation at this point. The Stooges decide to get themselves arrested in order to get Pomeroy out of jail. This is where I part company with the Stooges, but I slog on nevertheless, the loyal Stooge short reviewer that I am... oops! Daily Show time!

Act 2.5. The hunt for unlawful activity begins. The Stooges' plan to get thrown into the big house: assaulting a cop. They find a cop, and kick him in the ass. An on-looker passing by at the same time starts to laugh. The laughter being the worse of the two offenses, the laugher happily gets carted off to the big house himself. Curly decides to stick up someone, and Moe and Larry go to find a cop. They get back to Curly to find that... SPOILER ALERT! The guy's got the gun on Curly now! There's a mighty struggle as the cop tries to subdue the man. The gun ends up getting pointed at the Stooges; they rightfully n'yaah-n'yaah in response and duck. Now, this part you might find a little troubling: the cop wrestles the gun out of the bad guy's hand and gives it to Curly. Anyone? Anyone at all? Well, it does come in handy for the next scene, so that makes it okay. We'll just let that alone for now. Larry hits Curly in the tummy, but Curly doesn't bend forward. Moe then hits Curly in the belly, and he bends forward. Then, Moe hits Curly in the head to righten him back up. Curly, the class act he is, doesn't unload the gun into Moe, even though he clearly could have, and probably should have. If I'm not mistaken, that's the second time in this pic that Curly gets the ol' double whammy like that! ...damn. Now I gotta go back and catalog THAT too? I'm just not that good. Fortunately, this all happens in front of the police station, so the three scofflaw-heads don't have far to go to cause some real damage.
They go to police chief Vernon Dent, and Curly tells Vernon that they just held up the First National Bank and shot two guards. Vernon is rightly skeptical, and more than a little sarcastic, frankly. Not that I can hardly blame him. But this is still a comedy, so a call comes in a few seconds later... guess what happened? The First National Bank was just robbed! Two guards shot! Off the cops go. Vernon slams the doors behind him, causing the light fixture to drop and dangle, but not quite hit the ground. Here's where the true writing genius comes into play, all you would-be Joe Eszterhaseses out there... A lone cop walks under this dangling light fixture, and the Stooges push him out of the way. They all land on the ground in a heap, and Curly gets hit with said fixture. It's the act of slight heroism that gets them the jail time they wanted...


Setting: Hoose Gow rockpile. The Stooges are busy smashing rocks... but they manage to sneak in a round of bowling while the guards are away. The guards aren't away very long, so it's back to the pile of rocks. Either they aren't working very hard to break the rocks, or the rocks are made of balsa wood or something; probably very expensive prop rocks that need to be treated as carefully as Curly's head. This is Depression Era Cannery Row we're talking about, after all!
Suddenly, a large bee on a string starts getting dangled in front of Curly's face. Moe helps out his dear friend and brother the only way he knows how, and swats at the bee with his sledgehammer. Fortunately for Curly, his head's harder than the hammer and it gets mashed all out of shape... as though it were made of some sort of soft modeling clay!
Good visual joke: to match the convicts' striped uniforms, they've got a striped horse pulling a wagon. Not-so-good choreography: the lame excuse Moe gives himself for falling headlong into the path of Curly's sledgehammer. Payback's a b... a headache, let's call it.
Seeing as how this one's kinda lame, I'm going to cut to the chase. They eventually find Pomeroy, as they recognize his number: "41144". It's kinda rare for what's his face to have the kind of initial reaction to the Stooges that he has, but you gotta stretch your acting chops sometime! Given that the boys never stray too far from whatever tools they have at hand, the last job they were given, fortunately, was to do some painting. Curly used this to his advantage by stealing a guard's lunch meat and replacing it with a coat of black paint. This time, the Stooges and the honest man paint themselves guard uniforms so they can escape. Did they remember to paint both sides of their bodies? I'd hate to spoil that one, despite everything. But I will spoil the last "surprise": B.O. Davis was actually a crooked crook, and just as the foursome try to make their escape, B.O.'s being brought to prison. The boys give him the Stooge treatment and Curly says "See you out at the rockpile!"


Moe and Larry are breaking rocks on Curly's head. At least, until they get to the third rock. Curly says "Wait a minute! That's a real one! I'm no fool... n'yuk, n'yuk, n'yuk..." Nice try, Curly, but I'm afraid you three are still consigned to a lifetime of being accosted by joyous fans on the street and getting ACTUALLY poked in the eyes by them. Don't forget to do that special block!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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