When a three decades-long spate of injuries render the establishment uninsurable, leaving the staff and charges little choice but to leave or cough up the required 0,000 within the next 30 days, the trio set off in a bid to raise the funds and save the orphanage from closure.
Based on a series of mid-20th Century shorts of the same name, the Farrelly brothers’ latest is not a million miles from previous collaborations such as Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. Played for broad, tasteless laughs, the film relies heavily on physical comedy, simple word games and callbacks to provide the majority of its humour. At times, these comedic stunts are as intricately structured and carefully foreshadowed as the (admittedly gorier) set pieces of the Final Destination series, with inevitable chain reactions resulting in a hammer-head to the face or a ruined wedding cake. The Farrellys clearly know what they’re doing.
The laughs are dependent on the strength of the performers, and Diamantopoulos, Hayes and Sasso (as well as their young counterparts Skyler Gisondo, Lance Chantiles-Wertz and Robert Capron) have certainly put in the hours (both in rehearsal and the make-up chair) to fully embody their iconic personas. In committing fully, the actors lend credence to a film desperately in need of some, as they attack both the sentiment and slapstick with grace and aplomb. It is testament to their dedication and technical proficiency that the film succeeds at all, even if their sterling efforts are not enough to provide consistent entertainment. Armed with only a pittance of noises, pranks and grimaces, it is really no surprise.
The titular terrors aside, the film makes little use of its cast’s considerable talents. Lynch is wasted in a disappointingly straight role that requires her to do little more than speak softly and glide gracefully around the orphanage, Jennifer Hudson skulks around in the background until she is required to sing a soulful song, while Larry David appears inexplicably as one of the nuns, his obvious masculinity going unquestioned throughout, the comic potential left completely untapped. More problematic, however, are the film’s antagonists, who initially hire our heroes to carry out a hit on Sofía Vergara’s unsuspecting husband, before deciding that the stooges themselves must be eliminated when they inadvertently screw up an attempt at inherent fraud. Oh, and did I mention that the cast of Jersey Shore are in it too? Perfect.
The main issue, however, is one of taste, with the gags skewing so young that the target audience have doubtfully even been born yet. Over-reliant on a limited number of jokes and refusing to harness the talent they have accidentally accumulated onscreen, the Farrelly brothers struggle to fill the slim 92 minute running time with passable material. Worse, however, are the occasional missteps into slightly odder (and maybe even unsavoury) territory. Promoting stereotypes that were already tired in its 1930s heyday, practising the sort of malicious behaviour (the pranks stop when Curly is attacked by a chainsaw) that would make Tom and Jerry blush, and featuring scenes of what can only be described as animal cruelty, the film not only leaves you squirming but necessitates the sort of disclaimer usually found attached to episodes of Jackass. Though unrealistic, this sort of violence is perhaps best left to the animaniacs.
While the efforts of the lead cast and various stunt coordinators are to be commended, few but the most loyal of fans will find enough to laugh about in this unnecessary reboot. Better suited to a shorts than a feature length adventure (itself split into three separate episodes), the characters annoy far more than they ever manage to amuse.