MGM to release comedy Nov. 20, 2009

MGM has revived the long-gestating Peter and Bobby Farrelly Three Stooges project.

The siblings will renew their quest to channel the comic mayhem of the Three Stooges into a contemporary comedy for the studio.

Project marks an MGM homecoming for the Stooges as well as the Farrellys, who spent five years trying to make the Stooges movie at Warner Bros. The Farrellys will polish the script they wrote with Michael Cerrone and will direct the picture.

The studio has staked out a Nov. 20, 2009, release date for the film.

That puts the Stooges up against the Robert Downey Jr. starrer “Sherlock Holmes” and the animated “Planet 51.” Disney has scheduled the male-skewing comedy “Old Dogs,” with John Travolta, for Nov. 25.

The Farrellys will produce with Conundrum partner Bradley Thomas and Charlie Wessler. C3 Entertainment’s Earl and Robert Benjamin will be exec producers.

Peter Farrelly said the Stooges feature was revived because of the enthusiasm of MGM Worldwide Motion Picture Group chairman Mary Parent, who has acquired the rights to scripts owned by WB and made a deal with Stooges rights holders at C3. With Parent, the Farrellys have worked out a blueprint for a $45 million budget comedy that will be either PG or PG-13 and feature the slap-happy low-tech comedy prevalent in the Stooges shorts.

“It’s not a biopic. It takes place in present day, and they look, dress and sound exactly like the Stooges,” Peter Farrelly told Daily Variety. “When the economy started turning, we felt like the world could use a Stooges slapfest. Bobby and I haven’t done a real physical comedy in a while, and it’s the most exciting thing we could think of now, to have people go to the movie, see some great slapstick fun family humor.”

Farrelly said that an “American Idol”-like search will be conducted to find Curly, the most physically gifted member of the trio. Auditions will be held in three or four cities and a finalist will be chosen in Los Angeles. The film will be structured similarly to the shorts, as a feature storyline plays out over three installments that run between 25 and 30 minutes each. A second contest will be held to find several comedy shorts that will precede the film. The goal is to create the feeling that audiences got when they watched the original Stooges shorts as part of a diversified film program.

“We know this is extremely difficult to pull off; we realize some Stooges fans will be upset no matter what we do,” Farrelly said. “We love the Stooges and honor their memory, and we don’t want them to disappear. We hope that next Thanksgiving, dads will introduce their kids to the Stooges and create a new generation of knuckleheads.”

As the Farrellys move toward the Stooges, they won’t cork “Walter the Farting Dog.” That project will continue to move toward the starting gate for Fox as a star vehicle for teenage heartthrobs the Jonas Brothers.

Before they began making the short films at Columbia for which they are best known, Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard were hired by Louis B. Mayer to appear in several comedy features, films they made with Stooges founder Ted Healy.

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