The Three Stooges (2012 film)

The Three Stooges (promoted as The Three Stooges: The Movie) is a 2012 American slapstick comedy film based on the film shorts from 1934 to 1959 starring the comedy trio of the same name. The film was produced, written and directed by the Farrelly brothers and co-written by Mike Cerrone. It stars Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, and Will Sasso, re-creating the eponymous characters played by Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Howard.

The Three Stooges
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBobby Farrelly
Peter Farrelly
Produced by
Written byMike Cerrone
Peter Farrelly
Bobby Farrelly
Based onThe Three Stooges
by Norman Maurer and
Dick Brown
Music byJohn Debney
CinematographyMatthew F. Leonetti
Edited bySam Seig
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • April 13, 2012 (2012-04-13)[2]
Running time
92 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[4]
Box office$54.8 million[5]

The film's story places the Stooges in a modern setting. After over a decade of casting problems, principal photography took place from May to July 2011. The film was released on April 13, 2012, by 20th Century Fox.


The film is composed of three acts, which are referred to as episodes (a reference to how the original Three Stooges short films were packaged for television by Columbia Pictures).

Act / Episode 1: More Orphan Than Not

35 years in the past, the children at the Sisters of Mercy Orphanage are playing soccer with an old soda can in the front yard. But then, Sister Mary-Mengele, the meanest and strictest nun in the orphanage gets their attention by telling them to go inside and do their work. Later, infant versions of Moe, Larry, and Curly are dumped on the doorstep of the orphanage from an unknown person's car. Ever since, the trio has wreaked havoc in the place, leaving the nuns who run it utterly terrified, especially Sister Mary-Mengele, who has always hated the trio.

Ten years later, out of desperation, when a prospective couple comes to adopt, the exasperated nuns bring out the trio as being the only three available, eventually being forced to add a fourth when another boy, Teddy, enters the picture. The couple, the Harters, decides to pick Moe, but when he requests Larry and Curly to join him, he is dropped back off at the orphanage, and they choose Teddy instead. When he goes back to the orphanage, Moe lies to Larry and Curly that the reason he came back is because the Harters were going to make him do chores.

25 years later, in the present, the trio are adults, still living at the orphanage and working as maintenance men. Monsignor Ratliffe arrives to give everyone an important message. After Monsignor Ratliffe tells Mother Superior that the orphanage is going to close, she tells Sister Mary-Mengele to get the trio. As the three attempt to fix the bell on the roof, however, they accidentally injure Sister Mary-Mengele with it when she came to tell them Mother Superior needs them. They head to Mother Superior until another one of their accidents causes Monsignor Ratliffe to fall on top of the nuns. Monsignor Ratliffe gets attacked by Moe, Larry, and Curly, who think that he was getting fresh with the nuns, until Mother Superior stops them.

Mother Superior announces to everyone that the orphanage will be forced to close down at the end of the month. Monsignor Ratliffe tells the nuns they will be spread around the diocese and the children will be sent to foster homes unless they can up with $830,000 in 30 days. The trio volunteers to go out and try to raise the money somehow. Some of the nuns think that they will not be able to succeed because they don‘t know anyone their age, only nuns and kids, but Mother Superior thinks otherwise.

Act / Episode 2: The Bananas Split

A subplot involves a woman named Lydia, who wants to kill her husband so she can be with her lover, Mac, and inherit her husband's considerable fortune. She finds the trio and offers to pay them the money they need to take care of the hit job. They botch the job by letting Curly push Mac (the supposed husband) in front of a bus and leave Mac in traction in the hospital. When they try to visit Mac in the hospital to finish the job (failing to do so as Mac told them that it has been finished already), they are chased by the cops throughout the hospital and escape by jumping off the roof using a fire hose. They end up running into a now grown-up Teddy, who invites them to his anniversary party, but Moe refuses.

It turns out that Teddy is actually Lydia's husband. Their next scheme for raising the money is selling farm-raised salmon, with them scattering salmon on a golf range and watering them like produce. But the same cops from the hospital arrive at the golf course to arrest them and the trio gets chased off the golf course and they hide in an old building (getting in by using Curly as a battering ram to bust down the door). Inside, after having a slapstick fight, Larry and Curly scold Moe for rejecting Teddy's invitation and his father's earlier adoption attempt; they could have used his adoptive parents' wealth to help save the orphanage. Hurt, Moe tells them to leave, saying that he is tired of being with them. After deciding to split up, they leave the old building, with Moe left inside alone. Then it turns out that they were all on stage in front of an audition crew who select Moe to be the newest cast member of Jersey Shore as "Dyna-Moe".

Final Act / Episode 3: No Moe Mister Nice Guy

Larry and Curly are getting along well without Moe, but then they start to worry about him, and decide to return to the orphanage to find him. There, they find out a girl named Murph is very ill but has not been taken to the hospital because the orphanage has no medical insurance. Sister Mary-Mengele angrily tells them that no one will insure the orphanage due to the trio's numerous accidents and injuries over the years, and the $830,000 is needed in order to cover medical bills that accumulated over the years.

Larry and Curly later meet up with Teddy's adopted father at his office to talk about what happened with the orphanage. Teddy's father confesses that Moe wanted him to go back for his friends to adopt them, and he thought three kids would be too many to handle, so he gave Moe back and took Teddy in his place. Then Larry and Curly discover a picture of Teddy and Mr. Harter with Lydia and Mac, and realize that Teddy is the husband that Lydia wanted to murder. In addition to this, they feel guilty for rebuking Moe in not accepting the Harter's adoption and decide to go find him.

Meanwhile, Moe has been causing a lot of havoc on Jersey Shore by slapping, eye-poking and head-bopping the cast members and not putting up with their spoiled antics. The cast goes to the producer and tells him to kick Moe off of the show or they will sue him. The producer then informs them that the show is all about the ratings and not them. Larry and Curly finally go to the set of Jersey Shore to reunite with Moe and they all head to the anniversary party where they show up to thwart the murder plot, getting in as balloon men.

When they get inside, Curly gives all the balloons to a little girl and she floats up into the air. Later, they get chased by the angry Lydia and Mac after the same girl's balloons are popped and she falls onto the wedding cake, destroying it. Moe, Larry, and Curly are chased into Teddy's bedroom, finding Teddy on the bed, drowsy. Mac then draws a gun on the trio, but Mr. Harter appears and tells Mac to put his gun down. Mac then confesses that Lydia was "calling the shots", but Mr. Harter admits that he was the real mastermind and Lydia was working for him. He married into the money and was incensed to find out the money was left to Teddy and not him when Teddy's mother died years earlier.

They are taken for a ride, but the car crashes into a lake when Curly's pet rat Nippy digs into Lidia’s breasts. They all escape when Curly passes gas, and they light it with some "waterproof, strike-anywhere safety matches" that Larry had, causing enough of an explosion to blow out the windows. Once they are back on land, Mr. Harter, Lydia, and Mac are arrested, and Teddy thanks the trio for saving him. When the trio requests the $830,000 from Teddy, he declines, stating he refuses to help the same orphanage that gave him up to a father that tried to kill him.

A couple months later, the trio return to the now-condemned/abandoned orphanage. They feel bad for feeling like failures, but then they hear kids laughing, swimming and playing. When they investigate, they find out a brand new orphanage was built next door, complete with a swimming pool, a basketball court, and a tennis court. They soon learn that the money came from the Jersey Shore's producers who consider this as an advance payment in relation to a new reality show, Nuns vs. Nitwits, in which the entire trio will take part.

Murph is revealed to be perfectly fine and her illness was due to metal poisoning (with Larry saying he has always suspected there was too much iron in the water.) Then she, along with her friends, brothers Peezer and Weezer (the latter thought to have been lost forever to a foster home), will be adopted by Teddy and his new fiancée, Ling, who was Teddy's father's secretary. In the end, after causing one more incident (namely Curly accidentally knocking Sister Mary-Mengele into the pool with a folded-up diving board), the trio run away, bounce off some trampolines over the hedge and onto some mules, on which they clumsily ride away into the distance.

Post-script epilogue

An epilogue consists of two actors playing Bobby and Peter Farrelly, explaining that the stunts were all done by professionals, showing the foam rubber props used in the film for the trio to hit one another, demonstrating the fake eye-poke trick (to the eyebrows), and advising children not to try any of the stunts at home.

During the end credits, a music video plays showing the Stooges and Sister Rosemary performing "It's a Shame", originally recorded by The Spinners in 1970, interspersed with excerpts from deleted scenes and a couple of brief outtakes. Though credited to "The Spinners and The Three Stooges", Hudson's own distinctive vocals can also be heard.


  • Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe, the aggressive and short-tempered leader of the Stooges.
  • Sean Hayes as Larry, the smartest and most relaxed member of the Stooges.
    • Lance Chantiles-Wertz as young Larry
  • Will Sasso as Curly, the goofy and dim-witted member of the Stooges.
  • Jane Lynch as Mother Superior, the head nun of the orphanage the Stooges grew up in.
  • Sofía Vergara as Lydia Harter who was Teddy's wife that wanted to exploit the stooges. She wants to murder him in order to gain his inheritance. She hates the trio for thwarting her plans to murder Teddy.
  • Jennifer Hudson as Sister Rosemary, a nun who works at the orphanage.
  • Craig Bierko as Mac Mioski, Lydia's lover, and henchman.
  • Stephen Collins as Mr. Harter, Teddy's adoptive father, who is a lawyer that married into money, rather than love. He had originally wanted to adopt Moe, but when he insisted that he returns & adopt Larry and Curly, he dropped him back off at the orphanage & took Teddy in his place. He wants to murder his adopted son out of spite because his late wife & Teddy's deceased mother both left their inheritance to him, rather than himself.
  • Larry David as Sister Mary-Mengele, a bad-tempered and rude nun at the orphanage, who has a massive grudge against the Stooges.
  • Kirby Heyborne as Theodore J. "Teddy" Harter, a long-lost friend of the Stooges who they met at the orphanage.
  • Emy Coligado as Ling, Mr. Harter's secretary who eventually becomes Teddy's second wife.
  • Avalon Robbins as Murph, a sick girl at the orphanage who is a friend of the Stooges; adopted by Teddy & Ling.
  • Max Charles as Peezer, Weezer's brother, Murph's best friend and a friend of the Stooges; adopted by Teddy & Ling.
  • Reid Meadows as Weezer, Peezer's brother; adopted by Teddy & Ling.
  • Brian Doyle-Murray as Monsignor Ratliffe.
  • Lin Shaye as Nursery Nurse, a nurse who works at the hospital.
  • Caitlin Colford as Katilyn, a nurse who first notices the Stooges when they first come to the orphanage.
  • Carly Craig as Mrs. Harter, Mr. Harter's wife who adopted Teddy and leaves the entire inheritance to Teddy over her husband.
  • Kate Upton as Sister Bernice, a nun at the orphanage.
  • Marianne Leone as Sister Ricarda, a nun at the orphanage.
  • Isaiah Mustafa as Ralph, a producer for Jersey Shore.
  • Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi as herself.
  • Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino as himself.
  • Jennifer "JWoww" Farley as herself.
  • Ronnie Ortiz-Magro as himself.
  • Samantha "Sweetheart" Giancola as herself.
  • Justin Lopez as Peter Farrelly, Bobby's older brother and co-director of the film.
  • Antonio Sabàto, Jr. as Bobby Farrelly, Peter's younger brother and co-director of the film.
  • Dwight Howard as himself, a basketball player who teaches at the new orphanage.
  • Lee Armstrong as Officer Armstrong
  • Roy Jenkins as Officer Mycroft


Development and writing

A Three Stooges film set in the modern day had been in development during the show's 60th anniversary; Mad About You creator Danny Jacobson wrote and developed a version in 1997 that had Phil Hartman attached to play Moe.[6] Conundrum Entertainment's Bradley Thomas became attached to The Three Stooges around 2000 with Columbia Pictures. In March 2001, Warner Bros. bought the feature rights from C3 Entertainment and Peter and Bobby Farrelly became involved.[7] They along with co-writer Mike Cerrone completed the script in mid-to-late 2002 and began shopping it. In 2004, with no talent being attached to the project, their rights expired and it was acquired by First Look Studios and C3 Entertainment.[8] In November 2008, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquired the Farrelly's Warner Bros. scripts and the rights from C3 Entertainment, and was given a budget of $40 million with a release date of November 20, 2009.[8] In March 2009, after struggling with casting delays, the release date was pushed to 2010, but the filmmakers still did not have a cast set.[8] In November 2010, MGM filed bankruptcy and the following month the project was taken over by 20th Century Fox in hopes to have released the film in 2011.[8][9]

The Farrellys said that they were not going to do a biopic or remake, but instead new Three Stooges episodes set in the present day. The film was divided into three segments, each with a stand-alone story, and each being 27 minutes long.[10] The Farrellys aimed to receive a PG rating from the MPAA, while still incorporating physical comedy. In Britain several images were cut before the film achieved the equivalent rating.[3] The Farrellys have also said it would have "non-stop slapping, more in the tone of Dumb and Dumber than we've done. Our goal is 85 minutes of laughs in a film that will be very respectful of who the Stooges were. It's by far the riskiest project we've ever done, without question, but it is also the one closest to our hearts."[11]


In March 2009, Benicio del Toro and Hank Azaria were in consideration to play the lead role of Moe Howard.[12] The role of Moe went to Chris Diamantopoulos.[11][13] Sean Penn was already set to play Larry Fine but dropped out to concentrate on his charitable efforts in Haiti.[13] Sean Hayes was chosen to play Larry. Jim Carrey was set to play Curly Howard and gained 40 pounds for the role but ultimately dropped out because of not wanting to endanger his health gaining 60 to 70 pounds.[13][14] The role went to Will Sasso.[15] Johnny Knoxville, Andy Samberg and Shane Jacobson were all on the short list to play Moe, Larry and Curly, respectively.[16] As the Farrellys note in the DVD/Blu-ray featurette on casting the picture, Sasso was cast as Curly despite being considerably taller than the other Stooges (the original Curly was roughly the same height as Moe and Larry).

In December 2010, Richard Jenkins was in talks to play Mother Superior in the film.[8] In February 2011, Cher was considered[13] but Jane Lynch secured the role.[17] Larry David plays another nun in the film called Sister Mary-Mengele,[18] a character named after the infamous Nazi doctor.[19] Sofía Vergara was cast as Lydia. Stephen Collins was cast as Mr. Harter[4] and Carly Craig as his wife, Mrs. Harter.[20] The cast of Jersey Shore (Nicole Polizzi, Michael Sorrentino, Sammi Giancola, Jennifer Farley, and Ronnie Ortiz-Magro) have cameos in the film.[21][22]


On a reported budget of $30 million,[4] principal photography started on May 9, 2011, in downtown Atlanta, Georgia and wrapped on July 20, 2011.[22][23] Scenes were shot at the Fairlie-Poplar Historic District around 5 Points Sports Building on the corner of Peachtree St., Edgewood Ave., and Decatur St. on the evening and night of May 13 and wrapped the next day.[23] On May 26, filming took place at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta.[4] Other locations included Piedmont Park, Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital, Zoo Atlanta, and Colony Square.[24] In June, production moved to Cartersville and shot scenes near Woodland High School.[25] After the cast of the Jersey Shore arrived on July 18, 2011, they shot scenes at the Atlanta Civic Center.[21] During the last two days of filming, scenes were shot at an Ansley Park home.[24] Filming concluded on July 22, 2011, at the Miami Seaquarium, a popular marine life park in Florida, capturing a scene in their dolphin tank.[26]

Release and reception

Appearance on WWE Raw

To promote the film, Diamantopoulos, Hayes, and Sasso appeared as the Stooges on WWE Raw on April 9, 2012. They acted in several scenes, the first with Santino Marella, before later taking to the ring where they were booed by an infuriated crowd before Sasso, dressed as Hulk Hogan, received a chokeslam by Kane.[27]

Box office

On its opening weekend in US, The Three Stooges earned $17.1 million and debuted second behind The Hunger Games.[28] The film grossed $54,819,301 in the box office,[29] and at least $23,875,651 through US home video sales.[30]

Critical reception

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 51% based on reviews from 147 critics; the average rating is 5.38/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "While nowhere near as painful as it could have been, The Three Stooges fails to add fresh laughs to the Stooges' inestimable cinematic legacy."[31] Metacritic gives the film a score of 56 out of 100, based on reviews from 26 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[32] Despite the mixed reviews, Diamantopoulos, Hayes, and Sasso were praised for their performances as Moe, Larry, and Curly.[33]

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter described it as "[A] funny, good-hearted resuscitation of Hollywood's beloved lowbrow lunkheads",[33] while Manohla Dargis of The New York Times lauded the film as a "thoroughly enjoyable paean to Moe, Larry and Curly and the art of the eye poke".[34] gave the movie a fairly good review, insisting that the movie is great for families, and hardcore Stooge-fans will not be disappointed. They also went on to praise the actors for their portrayal of the Stooges, saying the likeness was uncanny, and perhaps even Oscar-worthy. Roger Ebert gave the movie two-and-a-half out of four stars, stating "The Farrelly brothers have made probably the best Three Stooges movie it's possible to make in 2012, and perhaps ever since the Stooges stopped making them themselves." Some critics, however, complained about the forced pop culture references such as cameos by Jersey Shore cast members which were presumably done to ensure the movie would have youth appeal and not simply be a nostalgia trip for older audiences.

Betsy Sherman of The Boston Phoenix gave it three out of four stars, saying it was "funny and faithful", and added that the film contains "stories that could have graced [the Stooges]' 1930s shorts (raise money to save an orphanage, stumble into a greedy wife's plot) onto the present and imagine how they'd interpret modern concepts (farm-raised salmon)".[35]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine gave it two stars out of four, commenting that "the movie is a mixed bag. The gags don't blossom with repetition. The Stooges were always better in short doses. And 90 minutes of PG nyuk-nyuk-nyuk can seem like an eternity. For the Farrellys, The Three Stooges is a labor of love. For non-believers, it's merely a labor." Travers also praised the cast, stating "The actors deserve a full-throated woo-woo-woo!" adding that "Hayes, Sasso, and Diamantopoulos do themselves and the Stooges proud."[36]

Bill Wine of KYW Newsradio 1060 in Philadelphia commented that "no one's going to confuse The Three Stooges with a transcendent movie anytime soon, but the Farrellys do capture and reproduce the anarchic spirit and uninhibited essence of the Stooges—soitenly and poifectly, as the Stooges would put it—and remind us why they had such a hold on some of us in decades past. The three leads are expert mimics—especially Hayes...they acquit themselves admirably..."[37]


Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League anti-defamation organization, released a statement condemning the movie on the grounds of disrespectful portrayals of Catholics, specifically nuns.[38] Donohue claims that the movie is evidence of increasing hostility towards religion and Catholics in Hollywood, commenting "In the 1950s, Hollywood generally avoided crude fare and was respectful of religion. Today, it specializes in crudity and trashes Christianity, especially Catholicism." Donohue added that the movie "is not just another remake: it is a cultural marker of sociological significance, and what it says about the way we've changed is not encouraging."[38]

Donohue pinpoints one scene in which the film pushes the envelope with its portrayals of two unusual nuns, portrayed by the swimsuit model Kate Upton, and Curb Your Enthusiasm creator Larry David. Both are potential causes for the offense for different reasons, as Moviefone reports:

In Stooges, David portrays Sister Mary-Mengele. The name is a nod to the late Nazi Josef Mengele, an SS Officer who decided the prisoners' fates at Auschwitz. As for Upton, it's not so much her character's name—Sister Bernice—as it is her attire. During one scene, the SI swimsuit model dons a very revealing bikini along with a large rosary around her neck.[19]

To resolve the issue, the Farelly brothers reshot the scene with Larry pointing out Sister Bernice, still wearing the "nun-kini" while on lifeguard duty at the new orphanage's pool. Close-up footage of Upton exiting the pool in front of a group of children appears in the film's trailer, but not in the movie itself nor DVD/Blu-ray deleted scenes; in the final film, she is only seen sitting in a chair and briefly in the background of a group shot while in her swimsuit (in her other scenes, she is dressed in standard nun attire).


The cast of Jersey Shore were each nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple for their work on the film, but lost to Mackenzie Foy and Taylor Lautner for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2.

The film received a nomination for worst film of the year by the Houston Film Critics Society.[39]

Home media

The Three Stooges was released on DVD and Blu-ray on July 17, 2012. The release includes behind-the-scenes featurettes, a screen test featuring the three lead actors testing out a scene later reshot for the movie, and a selection of deleted scenes. Of note is the inclusion of the theatrical trailer which, as mentioned above, contains numerous differences compared to the final film.


The Three Stooges:Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedMarch 12, 2012
GenreR&B, Pop, pop-rock
  1. "It's a Shame" - The Spinners (performed by cast members; Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Chris Diamantopoulos and Jennifer Hudson)
  2. "Roadrunner" – The Modern Lovers
  3. "A Candle's Fire – Beirut
  4. "Walkie Talkie Man" – Steriogram
  5. "Pulled Up" – Talking Heads
  6. "Tongue Tied" – Grouplove
  7. "Can't Stop Thinking" – Buva
  8. "Dance Like A Monkey" – The New York Dolls
  9. "Get Crazy" – LMFAO
  10. "Feel Like Going Home" – Charlie Rich
  11. "Waste" – Foster the People
  12. "Si Señor Bob " – Papo Vazquez
  13. "Three Stooges" - Iggy Pop (performed by cast members; Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Chris Diamantopoulos)
  14. "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" – Bob Dylan

Possible sequel and spin-off film

On May 7, 2015, a sequel was announced, with Hayes, Diamantopoulos and Sasso all reprising their roles. Cameron Fay was hired to write the script.[40] Production was set to begin in 2018.[41][42]

When asked by a fan on Twitter if he was still writing the script for the sequel, Fay replied by saying that he was no longer working on it, and that they hired someone who was a “Stooge expert” and consulted on the Farrelly Brothers’ first film to rewrite his draft. He also stated that the Farrelly Brothers had an executive producer credit, but did not have as much involvement as they did with the first film.[43][44]

C3 also announced it was working on a spin-off film titled The Three Little Stooges.


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  4. Fitzmaurice, Sarah (May 26, 2011). "Hello Mrs Harter! Sofia Vergara sizzles on set of the Three Stooges remake". Daily Mail. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
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  14. Ditzian, Eric (November 10, 2010). "'Three Stooges' Film Is 'Dead' For Jim Carrey". Retrieved May 28, 2011.
  15. Breznican, Anthony (March 25, 2011). "'Three Stooges' has its Curly: Will Sasso cast in knucklehead update—EXCLUSIVE". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
  16. Sneider, Jeff. "Exclusive: Knoxville & Samberg on 'Three Stooges' Shortlist". The Wrap. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
  17. Fleming, Mike (April 27, 2011). "'Three Stooges' Find Head Nun In 'Glee's Jane Lynch". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
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  20. Sneider (June 7, 2011). "Carly Craig joins 'Three Stooges'". Variety. Retrieved June 8, 2011.
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