BEVERLY HILLS, California — During a groundbreaking run of 190 short films, the greatest comedy trio of all time kicked off most of their adventures with the theme song "Three Blind Mice." Now, nearly 80 years later, the Three Stooges are once again stumbling around in the dark.
"It is happening, but we don't know when," Peter Farrelly said of the controversial comedy relaunch he and his brother, Bobby, first announced sometime around the turn of the century. "It's been the hardest thing to get made."
In the early 1930s — decades before Homer Simpson, Beavis and Butt-Head or the guys from "Jackass" — vaudeville comedians Larry Fine and Moe, Curly and Shemp Howard set the blueprint for slapstick stupidity (Shemp replaced Curly after he suffered a stroke in 1946). In the years since the Farrellys' announcement, everyone from Jack Black to Jim Carrey to Benicio Del Toro and Russell Crowe (!) have been rumored to be slipping into one of the Stooges' world-famous haircuts.
"We're trying to make [the script] feel like the original stuff, in the vein of the Stooges comedy," Bobby said of the movie, cautioning that no one has been cast. "[We'll retain,] of course, the hitting-each-other-in-the-head-with-the-hammers, and raking-saws-across-their-foreheads and stuff — we'll have that kind of humor, for sure."
Insisting that they won't be starting up a 21st century version of "Dewey, Cheatem & Howe," however, the Farrelly brothers were quick to shoot down rumors that they'll reimagine the Stooges as women, minorities or put any other spin on the legendary troupe.
"The movie will be in current time; they look exactly the same, they sound exactly the same," Peter insisted. "Moe, Larry, Curly — not Shemp."
Thinking for a moment about the sloppy-haired Stooge, the elder Farrelly amended: "Well, Shemp maybe will come in if we do a second one."
"We've written the script. It's all new situations that the Three Stooges would be in, but at present day," Peter added, acknowledging that the script will have the eye-poke aficionados working the same problem-prone jobs (plumbers, janitors, exterminators) that their predecessors toiled in decades ago.
The big difference, however, will be that the outrageousness will be knocked up to the next level. "It's the same type of situations but all fresh," Peter explained, revealing one of their new bits. "There's one scene, for instance, where [the new Stooges] are hiding out in a nursery at a hospital with all the babies."
In black-and-white Stooges shorts like "Dutiful but Dumb," Curly employed a classic gag that had him attempting to eat a bowl of soup, only to be thwarted by an oyster or clam that would spit it back into his flustered face. As the Farrelly script exists now, the brothers plan to resurrect the gag by replacing soup with baby urine.
"[The new Stooges] are hiding in there, and they're moving around a couple of babies, and they keep getting sprayed in the face," Peter grinned. "So, it's sort of like the clam-soup scene. You'll recognize scenes, but they're new."
Glancing toward his brother, he added: "Yeah, it's classy."
Understandably, die-hard Stooges fans have been flooding the Internet for years with concerns that the flick will end up like such ill-advised reimaginings as "The Honeymooners" with Cedric the Entertainer, "Fantasy Island" with Malcolm McDowell or "The New WKRP in Cincinnati." But if there are a pair of hands who could handle this potential landmine, it would seem to be the duo who once made Ben Stiller eye-poke a dog in "There's Something About Mary," only to have it block his fingers with a well-timed paw.
"The studios all think women will never go, but our argument is that 'Dumb and Dumber' wasn't a chick flick," Peter said of their 1994 hit. "Eventually, if it's funny, they'll go. And we feel like [a new Three Stooges movie] will be funny.
"The stars haven't lined up on that one," he concluded, adding that the brothers hope to film their new Stooges after the Friday release of "The Heartbreak Kid" and the filming of their next flick "Hall Pass." "But we're gonna make that movie. It's gonna happen."
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