The Farrelly Brothers' long-delayed dream of a Three Stooges revival may yet come true at MGM, which announced Monday it had green-lit the project for a 2009 release. It's a stunning milestone correcting the project's inertia at Warner Brothers, where execs were said to have balked at the introduction of the brothers' trademark scrotum-zippering sight gags to the more conventional eye-gouging hallmarks of Larry, Moe and Curly's '30s-era shorts. But that was then, and this — despite the lingering questions of cast (Crowe as Moe?), storyline and whether or not MGM remembers how to produce films — is now.The Hollywood Reporter notes that Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson were among the names once circling the project, a nifty batshit tandem we hope remains viable so many years on. (We share another writer's disappointment that newly retired Joaquin Phoenix won't be around to join them.) Peter Farrelly told Variety, meanwhile, that American Idol-style auditions will be held to discover the next Curly, "the most physically gifted member of the trio," and scuttled rumors that Farrelly alum Jim Carrey would add 150 pounds in an Oscar-chasing Method binge as the stoutest Stooge. The trades offer conflicting details about the film's "plot" as it were: either three vignettes of 25-30 minutes apiece or four vignettes of 20 minutes apiece, with THR citing another contest commissioning briefer comedy shorts that would precede the main feature. MGM has production chief Cale Boyter overseeing what would be his first actual production since fleeing New Line last spring; the tentative Nov. 20, 2009 release date places The Three Stooges in theaters directly opposite Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes. And according to Farrelly, the male-skewing ad campaign is already on:

"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." [...] "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."

At least until the MPAA comes along and slaps on an R-rating for "language and intense, sustained scenes of graphic violence." Don't think they won't, either.