Just because its the 1300s doesn’t mean Aubrey Plaza won’t roll her eyes in this novelty comedy

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“The Little Hours” is a one joke movie, but that joke is pretty good: it’s a 14th-century comedy that uses modern dialogue and wit, and is brought to life by a talented cast that makes it pop.

Writer-director Jeff Baena (“Joshy”) fashions his tale after stories in Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” — written in the 1350s — updating it with slang and behavior ripped from a modern-day sitcom. So when the disgraced Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly) complains, “that monastery is so boring, all we do is pray! I mean, it is important, but ...,” the humor is working on several levels.

The story centers on a trio of nuns, Alessandra (Alison Brie), Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) and Ginerva (Kate Micucci), whose vows of celibacy are tossed out of the window along with their expected old-timey speech affects and European accents. They gossip among each other, curse like teenagers and attack a skeevy groundskeeper with leering eyes. These aren’t your grandmother’s sisters.

At a nearby castle, a manservant (Dave Franco) is chased off the premises after he is caught having an affair with the wife of Lord Bruno (Nick Offerman). He winds up in the chapel with the nuns, who mistake him for a deaf mute, and all take turns bedding him.

Sitcom graduates Brie, Plaza (who also produces) and Micucci all make the material sing, and “SNL” vets Molly Shannon and Fred Armisen add to the film’s loose sketch comedy feel. Like an episode of “SNL,” the momentum peters out by the end, but by then its job is already done. “The Little Hours” is good for some big laughs.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘The Little Hours’

GRADE: B

Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content and language

Running time: 90 minutes

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