Video Verdict: ‘The Three Stooges,’ ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,’ ‘Lockout’

From left to right, LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn and Denise Crosby star in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The first season of the much-loved science-fiction series makes its Blu-ray debut this week.

A film recalling one of the best-known comedy teams in history anchors this week’s home video releases.

The Three Stooges

2 stars (out of four)
Rated PG for slapstick action violence, some rude and suggestive humor including language
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download

As a writing-directing team, Peter and Bobby Farrelly have been consistently inconsistent. Their filmography ranges from the sublime comedy “There’s Something About Mary” to the less enticing “Hall Pass.” Still, their films are always worth consideration because when they’re good, they’re very good.

Sadly, the Farrellys’ Three Stooges homage is a failure, although it’s hard to hold them entirely at fault. The biggest problem is that the film carefully honors the conventions of the original Stooges, and these are extremely tired by today’s standards.

The original Stooges specialized in broad, slapstick humor, which was never particularly smart. In keeping with that formula, the Farrelly’s made a movie that is just as silly and superficial as anything created by the earlier group, only minus the nostalgia that comes with watching a classic comedy.

The plot introduces the Stooges – Larry (Sean Hayes), Curly (Will Sasso) and Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos) – when they are small, rambunctious children terrorizing the nuns at a Catholic orphanage. Despite the sisters’ best efforts to keep them in check and find them a home, the boys are raised at the facility, eventually growing to adulthood and staying on as not-so-handy men.

After several decades, the orphanage finds itself in financial trouble, and – with closure imminent – Moe, Larry and Curly pledge to raise the money necessary to keep the facility open. This, of course, leads to numerous mishaps, including the Stooges being roped into a murder scheme and attempting to open a fish farm.

Hayes, Sasso and Diamantopoulos do a remarkable job channeling the energy and mannerisms of original Stooges Larry Fine, Curly Howard and Moe Howard, and it’s fun to watch them ham it up. Unfortunately, they’re saddled with material that just isn’t that funny… at least not in the 21st century.

As in vintage Stooges programming, the movie features countless eye pokes, shots to the groin and blows to the head. Because of this, young children and viewers who delight in goofy physical comedy will probably have a good time. Audiences that demand a degree of subtlety in their humor won’t.

Truth is, the Farrellys likely achieved what they wanted to with “The Three Stooges.” The movie is an acceptable homage to a much-loved comedy group. Unfortunately, it does nothing to improve on or advance a schtick made famous more than 70 years ago.

Blu-ray extra features include deleted and extended scenes, a brief history of the Stooges and several making-of featurettes.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

3 stars
Rated PG-13 for some violence and sexual content, and brief language
Sony
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom is gifted at telling sentimental tales that ask audiences to look closely at the choices life offers. With “Salmon Fishing in Yemen,” he exercises this skill with a winning adaptation of Paul Torday’s like-titled novel.

The story centers on a wealthy Yemeni sheikh’s (Amr Waked) dream of introducing salmon fishing to his country. Because the fish are not native to the region, he seeks the help of consultant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) and British fisheries expert Alfred “Fred” Jones (Ewan McGregor). At first, Fred, who lives a practical, reserved life, is resistant to the idea. He sees the financial and technical challenges to completing such a project as insurmountable. Regardless, he is forced to cooperate when the British prime minister’s press secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas) decides the effort will offer the administration a PR boost.

Despite his initial reticence, Fred becomes increasingly inspired as he spends more and more time with Harriet and the charismatic sheikh. In fact, the radical nature of the project allows him to discover a part of himself left long-dormant by a life of political servitude and an increasingly uninteresting relationship with his wife (Rachel Stirling).

Hallstrom is a wonderful craftsman, and the cast is top notch, so the story spools out at the perfect pace, asking viewers to reevaluate their perceptions of what is possible and whether there’s merit in chasing even the most impractical dreams. What’s more, Blunt, McGregor and Waked have an easygoing chemistry that compels the audience to invest in their characters.

“Salmon Fishing in Yemen” does have flaws, most noticeably that several key subplots are painfully predictable. It’s also disconcerting that Fred’s deteriorating relationship with his wife is important to the plotting, yet Stirling isn’t allowed time to flesh out her character. Since most characters are well defined, it’s frustrating to see such an important role get the shaft. Still, the film’s good points easily overshadow the bad, and the movie’s unapologetically sunny outlook is refreshing.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include two making-of featurettes.

Lockout

2 stars
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and language including some sexual references
Sony
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Luc Besson’s credits as a writer include the terrific action-adventure efforts “Taken,” “The Fifth Element” and “Leon: The Professional.” For that reason, Sony wisely decided to promote “Lockout” as one of his projects. Unfortunately, viewers who go in expecting another “Taken” will be sorely disappointed.

Besson co-wrote “Lockout” with directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, and one can’t help but wonder if they were out of ideas before they sat down to the table. The film seems more like a mishmash of science-fiction and action movie clichés than an attempt at a novel project.

The hero is a former CIA agent named Snow (Guy Pearce). He’s a tough guy with a penchant for wisecracks that don’t stop even when he’s being brutally assaulted. You know, the sort of character that guys like Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson made a career out of. The good news is that Pearce, an underappreciated actor, is really good at this sort of role. The bad news is that “Lockout” isn’t nearly as good as “Die Hard,” “Lethal Weapon” or any of the other films that allowed Willis and Gibson to plant their stakes. In fact, everything about “Lockout” feels like it was stolen from earlier efforts.

The premise is all but lifted from the 1981 Kurt Russell thriller “Escape From New York.” The year is 2079, and the U.S. has become so technologically advanced that it places its most dangerous criminals in stasis on an orbiting space prison known as MS One. The president’s daughter, Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace), has concerns about the facility, so she stages a goodwill visit. Of course, all the inmates break free while she’s there, taking her hostage.

Snow, recently convicted of betraying his nation (he didn’t do it), is offered a chance to better his situation by sneaking aboard the prison and saving Emilie. So, he gives it a shot.

From that point forward, “Lockout” becomes a non-stop action film, with Snow pausing between fights just long enough to make another wisecrack. As mentioned earlier, Pearce is likable in the lead role. Since Grace is also solid as the president’s daughter, “Lockout” has potential as a guilty pleasure. What it doesn’t have is a single original idea.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include two making-of features.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Lockout”: Science-fiction film starring Guy Pearce as a wrongly-convicted prisoner offered a chance at freedom for attempting to rescue the US president’s daughter (Maggie Grace). Written by Luc Besson and co-directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger.

“Casa de mi Padre”: Comedy starring Will Ferrell as a hard-working Mexican rancher fighting to keep his father’s property out of the hands of a dangerous drug lord (Gael Garcia Bernal). Diego Luna, Efren Ramirez and Genesis Rodriguez also star. Directed by Matt Piedmont.

“Friends With Kids”: Comedy from writer-director-actress Jennifer Westfeldt. The film – starring Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Adam Scott, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox and Edward Burns – explores how children change the dynamic within a group of friends.

“Intruders”: Psychological thriller about two children receiving nightly visitations from a frightening, faceless being. Clive Owen stars. Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (“28 Weeks Later”).

“Get the Gringo”: This Mel Gibson crime drama has been available as a pay-per-view title on DirecTV since May 1. This week, it’s available on DVD and Blu-ray as well. The plot centers on an American criminal (Gibson) who winds up in a Mexican prison where he forms a bond with a young boy. Gibson wrote the screenplay with Stacy Perskie and director Adrian Grunberg.

“Singin’ in the Rain” – 60th Anniversary edition: Warner Home Video is celebrating the anniversary of this musical classic with a three-disc set including both Blu-ray and DVD versions of the feature. This marks the film’s Blu-ray debut, and the set comes packed with a collectible umbrella and 48-page book.

“Alphas” – Season One: First 11 episodes of the Syfy drama about a group of super-powered individuals, or alphas, working with the government to stop other alphas from committing crimes. David Strarhairn, Ryan Cartwright, Warren Christie, Azita Ghanizada, Laura Mennell and Malik Yoba star.

“The Inbetweeners” – The Complete Series: British sitcom about a group of teens trying – often unsuccessfully – to get what they want out of life. Created by Damon Beesley and Iain Morris.

“Bonanza” – Season Three: Thirty-four episodes of the classic American western. CBS DVD has divided them in half, so fans can buy them either as two individual volumes or as part of a two-volume value pack. Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker and Michael Landon star.

“Sanctuary” – The Complete Fourth Season: Syfy didn’t renew “Sanctuary” for a fifth season, so this collection of 13 episodes is the show’s swan song. The series focuses on an organization dedicated to seeking out strange creatures and offering them protection. Amanda Tapping, Robin Dunne, Ryan Robbins and Christopher Heyerdahl star.

“Eureka” – Season 5: Final season of Syfy’s popular series about a small Oregon town populated by some of the world’s greatest minds. Colin Ferguson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Joe Morton and Jordan Hinson star.

“Scooby-Doo! Laff-A-Lympics – Spooky Games”: Twelve episodes of the vintage cartoon series “Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics” plus a brand new episode titled “Spooky Games.”

– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. For more of his work visit http://www.ForrestHartman.com. E-mail him at forrest@forresthartman.com.

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4 Comments

Filed under Video Verdict

4 responses to “Video Verdict: ‘The Three Stooges,’ ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,’ ‘Lockout’

  1. Mimi

    Hi Forrest, “Salmon Fishing” is one of very few English-language films that has played in our neck of the woods (rural southwest France) so far this summer. Ken and I really enjoyed it. Couldn’t agree more with your review.

    Like

  2. Nice to hear from you Mimi, and glad you agree with my review. 🙂 I hope you and Ken are still loving Europe. It is a whole different world!

    Like

  3. smilingldsgirl

    You should watch Friends with Kids. One of my favorite movies this year.

    Like

  4. Thanks for the tip. I haven’t watched it yet, but I’ve put it in my “see for sure” pile thanks to your recommendation!

    Like

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