Curly (Will Sasso) finds himself on the wrong end of a seafood dinner at a high society function, much to the amusement of pals Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos) and Larry (Sean Hayes) in “The Three Stooges.” The movie is a recreation of the classic comedy team, focusing on the Stooges as they set out to save their childhood orphanage.

20th Century Fox/Courtesy

Curly (Will Sasso) finds himself on the wrong end of a seafood dinner at a high society function, much to the amusement of pals Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos) and Larry (Sean Hayes) in “The Three Stooges.” The movie is a recreation of the classic comedy team, focusing on the Stooges as they set out to save their childhood orphanage.

‘Stooges’ remake a slap in the face, both good and bad

“The Three Stooges”

2 out of 4 stars

92 minutes

Starring: Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Chris Diamantopoulos and Larry David.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas in Steamboat Springs.

In crafting a remake of “The Three Stooges,” one must wonder if there are still people who go in for cheap entertainment centered on total numskulls.

In a time where “Jersey Shore” is adored by millions, clearly that’s not an issue, and when those two worlds collide, there’s only one appropriate response: Nyuck-nyuck-nyuck!

Moe, Larry and Curly (Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, Will Sasso) have grown up as the most permanent residents of the Sisters of Mercy Orphanage, forever terrorizing nuns and prospective parents with their troublemaking talents.

But, they do mean well, even if their childish antics have progressed well into adulthood and left them intolerable to everyone but the most patient order of women devoted to caring for those who have nothing.

Even the clemency of the Mother Superior (Jane Lynch) can’t save them this time, though. The announcement that the debt-riddled orphanage will be shut down puts the trio in a panic, and they take it upon themselves to raise nearly $1 million to save the only home they’ve ever known.

As Moe, Larry and Curly set out from their sheltered life for the first time, those who know them speculate as to whether the threesome is ready for life in the real world. A better question is whether the real world is ready for the likes of them.

Casting such familiar personalities couldn’t have been easy, and the choice to go for smaller names over huge stars is a risky one, especially considering the alleged lineup at one point was Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn and Jim Carrey.

Nevertheless, TV actor Diamantopoulos — who’s played real-life figures such as Robin Williams and Frank Sinatra — is a dead ringer for gruff but lovable Moe Howard, taking his role as the de facto leader to heart, whether he’s giving his two buddies orders or smacking them around. And, just because Moe’s the smartest of the bunch, don’t think he’s any less a Stooge.

Case in point: His brilliant scheme to start a “salmon farm” is by laying out half-dead fish all over the fairway of a golf course and water them each individually.

Sasso also gets the character of Curly just right, from catchphrases like “Soitenly!” and “Whoop-whoop-whoop-whoop!” to the spastic facial expressions and boundless manic energy that made the youngest of the Howard brothers the favorite of Stooges fans the world over.

The men with the bowl cut and buzz cut are taken care of, but what about the guy with the hairdo that could only be achieved by licking an electrical outlet? Hayes is the weak link to be sure, but not for lack of trying as the “What did I do?” straight man.

He gets the voice right, but the “Will & Grace” star is simply too good-looking — even with a bald cap and frizzy wig — to play someone as notoriously homely as Larry Fine, though his constantly being mistaken for a cancer patient plays it off humorously enough.

If you’re wondering how these dum-dums could possibly raise any money beyond the two bits in their pockets, they cross paths with a femme fatale (Sofia Vergara) who’s willing to pay anything to bump off her rich husband so she can run off with her lover (Craig Bierko).

Sounds simple enough for our boys, but even with all their experience in causing bodily harm, you can count on them to bungle it.

Whether they’re crashing a party, wreaking havoc in a hospital or running reality TV stars through a deserved gauntlet of punishment, the Stooges’ brand of comedy never gets old for those who have always enjoyed it.

The slapstick — first practiced in this version from the trio’s infancy on the ghastly Sister Mary-Mengele (Larry David) — is the same as it ever was in their heyday, with the full library of onomatopoeic sound effects for nose honks, face slaps, head clunks and more for use by directors/co-writers Bobby and Peter Farrelly.

The brothers who started their filmmaking career with the Stoogish “Dumb and Dumber” have been attempting to get this tribute to history’s most beloved imbeciles off the ground for years and the respect for the original vaudeville act is present, even if in-jokes like the law firm Dewey, Cheatem & Howe is replaced by the more modern Kickem, Harter & Indagroyne.

You don’t even want to know the name of the neighboring proctology office …

The Farrellys’ newest movie is one of their cleanest, although to tag it “family friendly” would be as big a stretch as calling Curly a Rhodes Scholar.

The cartoonish humor that men and children love and women claim to hate never lets up, but its escapist qualities are dampened by a post-credits reminder by the Farrellys — portrayed as hunks by Antonio Sabato Jr. and Justin Lopez — not to imitate anything they’ve just seen by smacking each other in the noggin with a hammer or poking each other in the eyeballs. Yet another reminder of an inherently stupid and lawsuit-happy society.

The real issue at hand here is that you can’t recreate hugely iconic characters and expect the same results. For one thing, the Stooges were much more successful in short films than full-length features.

Just see how “A Plumbing We Will Go” stacks up to “Have Rocket, Will Travel,” although the latter may have worked better if Curly had been involved.

The other glaring detail is that Diamantopoulos, Hayes and Sasso do wonderful impressions, but at the end of the day, that’s all they are.

Doomed as it may have been from its conception, “The Three Stooges” is hilarious at its best moments even while your better nature tells you to be loyal to the original masters of idiocy. The Farrellys had to have known they couldn’t please everyone — if anyone — but their unwise attempt to go for it anyway is something the real Moe, Larry and Curly would have given their approval.

Hey, look at the bright side — at least they didn’t include Shemp.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas in Steamboat Springs.

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