The Stooges’ mise-en-scene — if such it may be called – is, of course, filled with eye pokes, sledgehammer whacks and power tool-driven mayhem. So it’s not really objectionable to find visiting Msgr. Ratliffe (Brian Doyle-Murray) on the receiving end of a punch … well, a lot of punches, really. And, let it be said, he gives as good as he gets, delivering the famed triple-slap to the boys.
A sharp-tongued nun played by Larry David is also on the receiving end of a lot of head whacks. The abuse of authority figures or of people taking themselves too seriously in general is completely within the internal “Stooge logic.” But a drag nun obviously propels the script a big step in the wrong direction.
What really crosses the line, however, is the highly offensive name David’s character is assigned: Sister Mary-Mengele. And “she” is called that, not once or twice, but throughout the film.
A joking reference to a Nazi war criminal in a film presumably aimed at a young audience constitutes not only a cheap shot at Catholic sisters; it’s a descent into tastelessness that should be deplored at all levels.
Additionally, near the end of the film, a sexualized young nun figure in a revealing swimsuit puts in a brief appearance. This is Sr. Bernice, played by Kate Upton, this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover girl. Though fleeting, such a sight gag remains queasy and unsettling.
Jane Lynch plays Mother Superior in a deadpan manner seemingly taken from the long-running stage show “Nunsense.”
It’s unusual for a fictional feature, particularly a comedy, to use the name of an actual religious order. But here the nuns are clearly identified as Sisters of Mercy. Turns out, that’s because the Farrelly brothers have a link to the order: two aunts, it seems, are members of the community.
If referencing their congregation is meant as a shout-out to them, in this context, it’s certainly not a kind one.
The film contains irreverent and occasionally offensive humor directed at clergy and religious, some crude comedy and extensive physically abusive slapstick. The Catholic News Service classification is L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.