Welcome the weirdness: Sean Penn joins “Stooges” production

Sean Penn fans are a fanatical bunch. (Trust me. I am one.) We use the good — his performances in “Fast Times,” “Dead Man Walking,” “21 Grams” and “Mystic River” for starters — to excuse away all the paparazzi beatings, the awkward interviews, the bizarrely off-putting behavior, the snide comments, the moments when he made it, in his words, so hard to appreciate him. And we tend to believe he can do anything, or we at least appreciate the fact that he’ll damn near kill himself trying. I mean, the guy directed a Jewel music video.

But playing Larry Fine in the Farrelly brothers’ 2010 send-up to “The Three Stooges”? Alongside Benicio Del Toro as Moe and Jim Carrey as Curly?

Somebody call Robert Downey Jr. I think Penn just went full retard … again.

And yet, as tempted as I — and so many fans — might be to write this off as pure lunacy, I can’t quite do it. Penn can do comedy; anybody who’s seen “Fast Times” knows that. He was low-key and funny in his “Friends” and “Two and a Half Men” cameos. He found pain and, more importantly, humor in “Milk.” Is it really so difficult to believe there’s a sense of humor buried beneath all those layers and layers of seething rage that would make Ray Liotta hide under the bed with his yellow blankie?

Lest you think I’m some sort of weirdo with a Sean Penn shrine made of cold cuts in my closet, I’ll go a step further and say there are two more reasons why “The Three Stooges” could, in theory, work: Benicio Del Toro and Jim Carrey. Think about it. No, really, think about it. With his mumbly, indecipherable accent, wasn’t Del Toro the funniest character in “The Usual Suspects”? Then there’s “Excess Baggage,” where he played a bewildered, bumbling accidental kidnapper who easily matched wits with Alicia Silverstone. He nailed the physical comedy there; I think Del Toro can pull this off. And love him or hate him, Carrey’s cornered the market on spastic slapstick and comical yet disturbing facial expressions — The Mask,” “Ace Venture: Pet Detective,” “Dumb and Dumber” … you get the picture. He could do this in his sleep; in fact, I think that’s how he made “Liar Liar.”

Yes, the only potential weak link is, uh, the directors (and the top, I admit, is not a primo spot for a weak link). Bobby and Peter Farrelly had their heyday in the 1990s, peaking with “Kingpin” (good) and “There’s Something about Mary” (eh). But “The Heartbreak Kid” flopped like Nemo on dry land; even Rob “I’m growin’ out my bangs” Corddry couldn’t save it. So it all hinges on whether the Brothers Dim try to force this ragtag trio to ape the real Stooges (bad idea!) or let Penn, Del Toro and Carrey find their characters themselves (great idea!).

As for me, I’m thinking this movie’s way to success. What? There’s a reason “The Secret” has sold a quintillion copies worldwide. Just, uh, do me a favor and don’t tell Penn. He’d probably mock me.

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