Australian Council on Children and the Media

Three Stooges, The

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Short takes

Not recommended under 5, PG to 12, due to the incessant violence.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Three Stooges, The
  • a review of Three Stooges, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 4 June 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children aged under 5 Parental Guidance recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes
Children aged 5-12 Parental guidance recommended due to the incessant violence
Children over the age of 12 OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Three Stooges, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild comedic violence and crude humour
Length 90 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The Three Stooges, written and directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, is a contemporary take on the 1940s – 1960s slapstick comedy trio’s antics.  The (complicated) story is presented in three acts, which are designed to resemble the original format of the Stooges’ short films.  The first segment, titled, More orphan then not, opens when Moe, Curly and Larry  are dumped as babies, in a sack outside the Sisters of Mercy (Catholic) orphanage.  At first the nuns consider the three babies a gift from the angels but later realise that the three unusual children will be a liability.  Years pass and the accident-prone boys remain at the orphanage, as their strange appearances and dispositions frighten off potential adoptive parents.  Finally, when the brothers reach the age of ten, Moe is selected for adoption.  However, after he insists that his prospective parents also take on Curly and Larry, the couple decide to swap him for another orphan, Teddy (Kirby Heyborne).  At this point, the film jumps 25 years into the future, when 35 year old Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), Curly (Will Sasso) and Larry (Sean Hayes), who still live at the orphanage, discover that the institution is almost bankrupt and will be closed unless its debts of $830, 000 can be paid.

The second act, The Banana Split, depicts the Stooges leaving the orphanage to raise the required money.  After forming a picket line to advertise their desire to find paid work, Moe, Curly and Larry are approached by a couple who wish to hire them for a contract killing.  The female (Sofia Vergara), who does not identify herself, explains that her husband is terminally ill and wants The Stooges to kill him in order to prevent any further suffering. While the group are still discussing the dubious proposition, the Stooges accidentally bump the woman’s “husband” (Craig Bierko) who then falls under a bus and is almost killed. 

In the final act, No Moe Mister Nice Guy, the Stooges are depicted still roaming the streets in search of ways to raise money for the orphanage.  One day, they happen to meet up with Teddy (Kirby Heyborne), their childhood friend who was adopted in Moe’s place.  When Larry realises the men are essentially homeless, he asks them to come and stay with him, but Moe still resents Teddy, and so refuses.  This decision leads to a heated argument, after which Moe decides to leave Curly and Larry.  In a bizarre turn of events, viewers discover that the whole fight was witnessed by television producers who then invite Moe to join the set of a new reality TV show.  While Moe is gaining celebrity status, Curly and Larry stumble onto the sinister truth about the secretive couple they met earlier.  Curly and Larry then decide to find and reunite with Moe, so that they can all work together to help save Teddy, who they realise is in grave danger.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Family separation; betrayal; sexual infidelity

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

In the tradition of slapstick comedy, this film involves almost unceasing physical and verbal violence. Parents may be concerned that younger children may imitate this violence. Examples include:

  • Moe slaps, kicks, punches, eye-gouges, and yells at Curly and Larry and they retaliate.
  • Moe hits Curly and Larry on the head and neck with a sledge-hammer.
  • Moe pulls out tufts of Larry’s hair.
  • Moe rips out Curly’s nose hairs.
  • Moe repeatedly scrapes an unidentified man’s bare foot with a cheese grater.
  • Moe places an unidentified woman’s tongue in a home-made vice.
  • Moe jams a microwave oven over an unidentified man’s head, and then turns it on.
  • Sister Mary (Larry David) threatens the Stooges with a large block of timber after using it to knock out the legs of the work-bench they were sleeping on.
  • Moe and Curly use Larry as a battering ram to open a steel door.
  • Moe holds a pillow over Mac’s head in an attempt to smother him.
  • Moe pushes an unidentified security guard into a large metal plate, which stops his heart.  In response, Moe orders Curly and Larry to get the “paddles”, which are actually hot irons that are then placed on the man’s bare chest.
  • Mac taunts and hits a chained lion. The lion snarls and strikes at him
  • Mac points a gun at the Stooges.
  • Mr. Harter (Stephen Collins) points a gun at Mac.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under eight, including the following:

  • Moe is separated from Curly and Larry when they are still boys.
  • The Stooges throw a live lobster and octopus across a room.
  • Hundreds of salmon are shown flapping on the dry grass in an open paddock.  Subsequent scenes show them in a progressive state of dehydration, until finally flies circle their dead bodies.
  • The Stooges repeatedly squeeze a dolphin in an attempt to dislodge a peanut stuck in its blowhole.
  • The Stooges fall several storeys from a hospital roof.
  • A metal church bell falls from the church roof and strikes Sister Mary on the head.
  • Mac falls under a speeding bus, is dragged underneath for several meters, and then becomes caught under the revolving brushes of a street-sweeper.
  • The Stooges, Lydia, Mac and Mr. Harter crash their car through a bridge guard rail and end trapped underwater.
  • An unidentified girl is carried metres up into the air by a bunch of helium filled balloons.  Moe responds by shooting the balloons, and the girl plummets down, but lands laughing in a giant cake.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

No products are displayed or used in this movie, however there is a verbal reference to Fosters beer, and a Guinness baseball cap is shown.  In addition, Andy Warhol-style pop art is displayed, and there are verbal references to the film Starwars and the TV shows The Kardashians and Jersey Shore. There is also one musical scene involving a singing nun, which is reminiscent of the Sister Act films.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Curly accuses a priest of attempting to “get all handsy” with the nuns.
  • Mac bumps Lydia’s breast and it honks.
  • Curly refers to Lydia as “legs”.
  • An unidentified hospital attendant asks Curly out for a date when he is disguised as a woman.  During the interchange, the attendant says provocatively, “I like a heavy woman”.
  • A live lobster is placed down Larry’s trousers and he cries out in a high pitched voice.
  • There is also a scene where the Stooges are drenched in baby urine, then use male babies as water-pistols, to target each other with urine.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • several of the female characters wear tight, revealing clothing
  • Lydia and Mac hug and kiss

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • A verbal reference to Fosters beer.
  • Party scenes depicting adults drinking alcohol.

Coarse language

There is no coarse language as such in this film, however several put-downs and some threats are used, including:

  • Many derogatory references to the Stooges’ low intelligence levels, such as:  “morons”; “idiots”;  “fools”;  “lame brains”; “Have you got rocks in your head”; “dim-wits”;
  • Some gender-based put-downs, such as “bulldog” addressed to a female hospital administrator

In a nutshell

The Three Stooges is a slapstick comedy, which contains a great deal of violence.  While many of the violent episodes are humorous, and quite true to the style of the original Three Stooges films, parents may not see the constant punching, slapping and eye-gouging as appropriate viewing for children.  It is likely that many young children will not be able to see beyond these aggressive displays to grasp the underlying message about loyalty and teamwork.

At the close of the film, directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly appear for a brief discussion about the ways that the violent stunts were performed, and stress that audience members should not try to emulate such actions.  Nevertheless, even this direct message is unlikely to be enough to counter the previous 86 minutes of unrestrained aggression that audiences have been encouraged to laugh at.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • team work
  • loyalty

 This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

The actual outcomes of fighting and aggression, in contrast to the cartoon-like sequences in the film, which did not accurately depict the consequences of such actions.  Parents could discuss other, non-violent means of conflict resolution and the benefits of learning how to share and work together.

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