Friday, January 7, 2011

Three Stooges casting problem

I have tried to appreciate the Three Stooges. They were immensely popular at one time, and even when I was a kid their shorts re-ran on television all the time. I had lots of friends who were big fans of theirs. The slapstick and the beatings, and the "nyuck, nyuck, nycuk."

I prefer my humor be laced with something more substantial. And, the Three Stooges didn't do fart jokes.

Anyway, they're a strange relic of a bygone era. Mostly of interest to pop culture paleontologists who wish to study the sanitization of society (when I was a kid, the Stooges were aimed at kids. seriously, the Stooges were considered acceptable kids entertainment. try getting that stuff on Saturday morning today, with our "E/I" ratings and our Parents Television Councils) and, I suppose, drunken fraternity brothers who were unable to find acceptable sexual partners for the evening.


And now, for some reason, the creators of There's Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber (which themselves feel like strange relics from a bygone era) are working on -- and have been working on, for some time -- a new Three Stooges movie.

My question is, "Why?" This question I ask most emphatically, because, the very unnecessariness of such an endeavor is neatly encapsulated in this bit from an article on The Wrap about the "short list" of actors who might play the iconic morons:
"Jackass" prankster Johnny Knoxville, "Saturday Night Live" star Andy Samberg and Australian comic Shane Jacobson are on the shortlist to play Moe, Larry and Curly, respectively, in 20th Century Fox's "Three Stooges," TheWrap has learned from an agency insider.
Yes, one of the guys from "Jackass," the performance artists known for their painful stunts, is in the running to play one of the vaudevillians who simulated painful stunts when his grandparents were children.

This is a serious comedown for Mr. Knoxville, whose work I have admired for a long time. The "Jackass" television programs and movies are brilliant satirical pieces that push the definitions of acceptability, celebrate freedom, and offer perspective on the human condition in the face of a world that is rapidly and uncontrollably changing. As Armond White put it in his review of "Jackass 3-D":
Turning their bodies into pincushions, punching bags, toilets and vomit projectors, they publicize redneck recklessness as a form of foolish All- American freedom.

Jackass stunts are clearly stuff parents wouldn’t sanction their rowdiest sons to do—with the exception of Bam Margera’s parents (ursine Phil and grinning April), who are eager, if often surprised, participants in the set-ups. They provide an adult-to-kid context that proves risk and folly are not limited to youth. It may have something to do with the American sensibility for individual fearlessness and license. Jackass 3D upgrades the silliness by incorporating the latest—hallowed— Hollywood technology. And be grateful for that: Seeing feces and dildos poke-out at your customized goggles puts all James Cameron’s high-falutin’ pronouncements about “immersion” in correct perspective: It’s not only a filmmaking gimmick, it’s also a marketing gimmick.
In other words, whatever the Stooges were trying to do, the Jackass guys are actually doing. And yet, there's this bit of Jackass-knocking from the Wrap article:
Knoxville always has seemed like a strong candidate for the role, considering that he and his "Jackass" brethren are the modern-day equivalent of the Stooges. Vanity Fair's profile of Knoxville and his "Jackass 3D" co-stars, in fact, was headlined "The 3D Stooges," and Knoxville appeared in the magazine's photo shoot as Moe.
No, they're not the modern day equivalent of the Stooges. The Stooges films were all dull, inauthentic, artless. They were like bad imitations of Warner Bros cartoons. I understand and appreciate what the Stooges were trying to do -- there's a lot to be said for people who are willing to do anything to get a laugh. I just had a hard time staying awake for it.

Johnny Knoxville can do better; he already has. Of course, he also appeared in "The Dukes of Hazzard" movie. But I'm sure that was just Jackass-inspired performance art.

The Jackass-to-Stooges comparison is so specious, even Vanity Fair picked up on it.

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