Alan Dee’s cinema guide: The Three Stooges, The Watch

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THERE’S something about slapstick that makes it appealing when times are tough. The sight of grown men subjected to cartoon levels of violence is always a hit with the kid inside all of us, and there are few people who can do childish as well as the Farrelly brothers.

So when Bobby and Peter, masters of the modern bad taste comedy, decided to pay homage to three of the most witless heroes of cinema chucklefests, it was always likely to be a winner.

The Three Stooges aren’t well known these days, but in their time they were what we might term the Channel 5 version of the Marx Brothers, a comedy crew who would endure any indignity if it meant a laugh.

Summoning up the spirit of Curly, Larry and Moe for a 2012 audience are pretty much unknowns Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos and Will Sasso.

All three have decent TV exposure in their back catalogues, with Hayes the best known from his long stint in Will and Grace, but none have had this sort of exposure before.

Think the Blues Brothers meets Bottom as three witless siblings try to save their childhood orphanage and get involved in a predictably painful set of mishaps.

There’s absolutely nothing big or clever about this, and that’s just the way the Farrellys, the men who brought you Dumb And Dumber.

If all you want to do is laugh, and wince every now and then, this one’s for you.

> A less reliable laughterfest comes in the shape of Keith Lemon: The Film. The character comedy of Leigh Francis is an acquired taste and I seem to be immune – I thought he was doing well to get TV gigs, and suddenly here he is on the big screen with comedy foils of the likes of Kelly Brook, Verne Troyer and David Hasselhoff.

Plot? Leeds lad comes to London, finds fame and fortune by mistake and enjoys the high life before it all goes wrong. If nothing else, you can play spot the celeb in those long moments waiting for a gag that works.

> More serious stuff now – Shadow Dancer is the tense tale of an IRA terrorist (Andrea Riseborough) who turns M15 grass to protect her son.

Clive Owen is the spymaster who sends her back to Belfast and the script is based on the novel by Tom Bradby, who also wrote the script. A nail-biting history lesson from not so long ago, and well worth seeking out.

> Back to comedy, and there are plenty of familiar faces backing up Ben Stiller in The Watch, in which a group of dads organise themselves into a neighbourhood watch group in order to defend their little patch of suburbia from hoodies and other small-time nuisances only to find themselves on the front line against a planned alien invasion.

The story comes from Superbad screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and alonside Stiller there’s reliable support from Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and the latest Brit doing very well in Hollywood, The IT Crowd’s supergeek Richard Ayoade.