Watch MUSCLE UP A LITTLE CLOSER in the link above
This is a Joe Besser short, and I like it. Perhaps a statement that will spark some controversy. Now, is MUSCLE UP A LITTLE CLOSER a classic? No. However, it makes for pretty good entertainment.
I'll mention the fact Moe and Larry, for the first time ever, have their street haircuts, per the suggestion of Joe Besser himself. I'm not offended by this. While I am a fan of the gag cuts, they never defined Moe and Larry's characters themselves. As for Moe and Larry, the interaction where Moe tells Larry to hold the tool to his nose as he goes away always gets a huge laugh out of me. The look on Larry's face is priceless.
Now let's get to Joe, the bad and the good. The bad is he's a bit whiny when looking for Tiny's ring at the beginning, but my biggest complaint is the bubble gum scene with Moe. Moe pops the bubble and even attempts to pry the gum out of Joe's mouth. Good so far. However, after Besser bites Moe's fingers out of his mouth, all Moe could do is helplessly yell at Besser in a hissy fit and walk away. I really wanted to see some wit and slapstick combo Moe would have done with Curly or Shemp in that situation. Why Besser wouldn't do this, who knows? All it does is weaken Moe.
What's crazy about this is Besser does slapstick, just doesn't interact with Moe in the traditional way. Besser has a box stapled to his stomach, and I always enjoyed the, "It's following me" line. Hell, Besser even takes a flamethrower in the ass! The guy does slapstick, all the more disappointing the lack of good interplay with Moe. I've also always liked the gag where he takes the oil, burns the egg shells, and cleans it up by sweeping it. A very clever gag by the writers, the best in a long time.
The story is paced well, the ending, unlike some other Stooge films, has its charms, and overall, I find this to be an enjoyable short. Besser is a good comedian at times, just never a great Stooge. When the script is decent, so are the shorts, when it comes to Besser. The difference is with Curly and Shemp, decent scripts were not just decent shorts, at times they were elevated.