The great grandson of the famous Phileas Fogg accepts a bet to repeat his ancestors renowned expedition by traveling around the world in eighty days. But unbeknownst to him the younger Fogg has made a bet with a cagey con-man who has no intention of letting him succeed and is out to make him penniless.
However, Fogg has three aces up his sleeve when his loyal servants decide to accompany him on his journey. They go by the names Moe, Larry and Curly Joe.
I’ve always been a huge Stooge fan. I love their shorts and I have never tired of watching them. I could pop some in tonight, relax and have a grand old time watching the boy slap, eye poke and nose twist each other for hours.
Of course for me they were at their comedic heights when youngest brother Curly was around. He’s most everyone’s favorite Stooge and I’m really no exception. Shemp came along and while I thought he was ok, I never really warmed up to him that much.
And I don’t care if Shemp was one of the original Stooges in the act, I’m talking about their films and I don’t include Shemp’s one appearance in 1930’s Soup to Nuts. For me the real Stooges film careers began when they headlined in 1934’s Woman Haters.
We had Joe Besser’s short run as the third Stooge. I’m sure he has his fans, but I”m not one of them. Then finally we come to ‘Curly Joe’ DeRita. At the time when he joined Moe and Larry in 1958 the Stooges had something of a resurgence thanks to their old shorts being run on television non-stop. This created more Stooge demand and the boys finally got the clout to star in their own feature films.
I have never watched any of their feature films from this late period in their careers. Somehow I just always knew I wouldn’t like them. The closest I ever came was watching a little of Have Rocket, Will Travel years ago. After about five minutes I just turned it off. I’ve been tempted to watch The Outlaws Is Coming only from the mild curiousity of seeing the Stooges star alongside Adam West. But that probably sounds better than the actual result.
Anyway, due to circumstances of being completely bored, along with the coincidence of Turner Classic Movies airing it, I watched this one, their second to last feature film. And it’s exactly how I always envisioned these later Stooge films would be. It’s simply not funny. None of it is. At times it started to be a grueling experience to get through it.
The story is meaningless really. From just hearing the broad synopisis I would have pictured the guys actually traveling to different places and making a mess in different countries and cultures. There would be a grab bag of different settings, but they don’t even really go around the world – they kind of hop-scotch around it. Most of the action takes place in Turkey and China,
They rehash old Stooge gags that were much funnier decades earlier. Curly Joe going crazy when Larry plays Pop Goes the Weasel. The Maharaja routine. Both bits that Curly did brilliantly in the early shorts. Things drag too. The guys are older obviously so the slap stick is much slower, the slaps are softer and overall the gags are just tired. It’s not like they do anything new or do it funnier this time around. It’s clear the guys are past their prime.
The funniest gag is when the Stooges get captured by the Chinese and in a failed attempt to brainwash them turn the tables on their captors and turn them into Stooges. Maybe some of the humor isn’t politically correct, but I still found it amusing.
There’s this tacked on romance between Fogg and a girl they meet along the way, but really that’s BS. Both of the straight leads are about as charismatic as cardboard.
I don’t know why they bothered with including that meaningless romantic subplot to a lot of comedies. You’d see them all over the place – Marx Brothers, Abbot and Costello. It’s not like audiences who went to see this were hoping to see a love story. If they wanted to watch that they would have gone to another movie. Drop that crap and stick with the guys being funny and satisfying the people who showed up to buy tickets to this. That always annoys me.
The one thing that made me feel good watching this was the fact the guys were still in demand and still had longtime fans, along with new younger ones who appreciated them so late in their careers.
The fact they continued to work they obviously must of known they still had an audience who were entertained by them. I just find it unfortunate that they didn’t get offered feature films when they were at their strongest in the 1930s and ’40’s. A feature length movie starring Moe, Larry and Curly – that would have been something great to see.
Here’s Mick Garris talking about the film
I think I only watched one Stooge movie. It was "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" were they accidently invent time travel and travel back to ancient Greece. And I only watched that because I was stuck in a hotel and didn't really know what I was watching movie until I looked at the clock and saw that I had spent 40 minutes on this "short."
My memory of that movie was it was no great shakes. But it did manage to put the focus back on the Stooges and not use the love story gimmick. They spent the rest of the movie trying to get back to their own time. I kind of forerunner to "Back to the Future."
But I want to talk about that gimmick. As Hap pointed out they used that gimmick way too much. Especially for the pre-war comedic teams of that era. It was always the same deal. They would have the movie start with a love story that seemed doomed because the men were not secure in their station in life. Then they would spend the movie trying to pursue a "big break" that would secure their lives and allow a romance to flourish.
Be it Abbott & Costello, The Marx Brothers or The Three Stooges; they would always get pushed to the background until it was time to do their bits. And the minute their skits were over, they were pushed to the background again.
I get why they did this. They needed something to tie all these skits together. And since these guys appealed mostly to men, they decided to throw women a bone and show a love story unfold.
But the movies that get most remembered are the ones were these guys are front and center for the whole movie and were necessary for the plot. For example, "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" is considered their greatest work. Mainly because Dracula spends the whole movie trying to get his hands on Costello. "Duck Soup," which has made a few top 100 lists of greatest movies of all time, has the Marx Brothers running a country on the verge of war.
I guess its an example of play-it-safe-ism that is, even today, still in play in Hollywood. Hollywood would rather put out of movie with skits and a love story instead of trying to come up with something new and different.