This’n’that: ‘The Three Stooges,’ ‘Girls,’ Tribeca

May 1, 2012


Catching up with a few things I’ve been thinking about but haven’t had a chance to get around to:

Let’s start with “The Three Stooges,” which I didn’t catch up with until a couple of weeks after it opened.

Frankly, I felt lucky that I had a conflict with the only press screening of the Farrelly brothers’ version of the old comedy team. The idea of actors like Sean Penn, Benicio del Toro or any of the other names that were tossed around over the last few years of casting discussion never excited me. When they actually started making the movie with distinctly less star power, well, sorry, I didn’t care.

But, when some of my colleagues from major publications raved about the film, I begrudgingly decided that OK, I’ll buy a ticket and go see it. Which I did – and came away thinking, “Meh.”

Yes, I laughed a few times. Mostly, I laughed at the near-perfect recreation of the Stooges’ various bits of slapstick shtick: the slapping, the eye-pokes, the bonks with hammers and other implements of destruction. It reaches its apogee in one balls-out round-robin of slapping and sound effects the three perform on a bare stage. I also laughed when Moe slapped around the cast of “Jersey Shore” because, well, someone finally did that.

Otherwise, well, hey, there are boxed sets of the Stooges’ output that capture the real thing. For that matter, you can find their shorts (or parts of them) on YouTube.

The guys in the Farrelly brothers’ version – Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe, Sean Hayes as Larry, Will Sasso as Curly – are inspired imitators. But the script itself was just a mishmash of old Stooge routines and clichéd plot points. And when it turned sentimental – with the Stooges having misunderstandings and hurt feelings – well, the Three Stooges aren’t about feelings. That just seemed like a sentimental sop to screenwriting conventions.

So “The Three Stooges’ – been there, done that. Give me the originals anytime.

# # #

I’ve also been amused by the backlash against Lena Dunham’s HBO series, “Girls.” Hailed as the second coming of the sitcom on the cover of New York magazine more than a month before it even hit the airwaves, “Girls” debuted to a round of rave reviews, followed by the inevitable negative reaction of social commentators who are always suspicious of anything that’s too popular and of the moment.

I personally don’t care one way or the other about how young Lena Dunham is, how nondiverse the show’s cast is or any of the other gripes. I think the show is smart and funny – but then, I was a fan of Dunham’s film “Tiny Furniture,” and was pleased to see her apply the same sensibility to a weekly TV series.

No, what I found particularly amusing was the fact that the bulk of the sniping came from writers who seemed to be of Dunham’s generation. Whereas everyone I talked to about the show loved it – because we’re all roughly old enough to be parents of children who are Dunham’s age.

So the opening sequence of the pilot – in which Dunham’s character, Hannah, is told by her parents that they’re no longer going to support her at age 25 – not only rang true but caused gales of laughter among the people I was watching with.

Perhaps it’s a generational thing: the wisdom of age, looking back with amusement, not only at what our own kids are doing with their lives at this economically rocky moment in history, but how we dealt with the same issues when we were that age, back in the caveman days.

I get the feeling that a lot of the naysayers are uncomfortable with the accuracy of her portrait of the cluelessness one suffers in one’s 20s. To me, that’s what a lot of this backlash seems to be saying: “Hey, I’m not like that. Therefore, she’s way off-base.”

Yeah, that mirror can be a brutal thing.

# # #

Finally, the Tribeca Film Festival. I only got down to a couple of press screenings this year and rarely go to the public screenings or panels themselves. As in past years, there were a handful of movies I wanted to see that hadn’t been at Sundance or Toronto. But the big titles were things that would be in theaters soon anyway – everything from the opening and closing night films (“The Five-Year Engagement,” “The Avengers”) to such arthouse fare as “Hysteria.”

Really, it was more of a scheduling thing, which it always seems to be. It wasn’t that the press screenings during the festival were at a multiplex on W. 23rd Street; I’d rather go there than down to the Tribeca Film Center. Rather, it was that the press screenings were all clustered together in the mornings and early afternoon. Even if my schedule had allowed me to attend more than I did, every day offered an opening slot that had two or three movies that I wanted to see, all at the same time.

If they’d been spread through the day, as they are at Toronto and Sundance, the two major festivals I try to attend regularly, it might have made a difference. As it was, Tribeca still remains a kind of film-festival afterthought for me: a chance to see a couple of extra films but, otherwise, not something I’m going to devote several days to.

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