Do (or did) you get a kick out of the slapstick comedy of Laurel & Hardy? If the answer is yes, then Stan & Ollie is worth a watch, primarily due to the heartfelt and moving performances of Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy. Stan & Ollie is not your traditional biographical drama. It kicks off with the legendary comedy duo at the height of their fame during Hollywood’s Golden Age circa 1930s, then fast-forwards to the pair as fading stars looking to revive their routine – and film careers – by embarking on a variety hall tour of Britain in 1953.
The film offers a glimpse behind the scenes at the pair’s creative partnership and its impact on their lives and friendship over the years. One thing that shines through is Laurel & Hardy’s genuine ability and desire to make people smile and laugh, even when the men themselves were struggling personally and professionally.
It took me several minutes to get into the movie and shift my expectations from LOL comedy to a narrative that injects legendary comic bits into a sad yet poignant biopic. The latter half brings the wives into the picture, offering up strong, subtle performances from Nina Arianda as Ida Kitaeva Laurel and Shirley Henderson as Lucille Hardy.
You don’t have to be a fan of the films of that golden age to grasp what’s going on, but it definitely helps. Stan & Ollie will resonate most with those who appreciate the likes of Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, The Marx Brothers, Three Stooges, etc. My personal knowledge of Laurel & Hardy was basically limited to faint recollections of watching old 16mm films that featured a skinny guy and his stout sidekick hamming it up in suits and bowler hats. That image won’t fade all that much after watching Stan & Ollie, but you may feel a deeper appreciation for their enduring legacy. Watching the end credits helps too. They feature the real Laurel & Hardy performing a skit that Coogan and Reilly imitate to near-perfection in the biopic. No need to rush out and see Stan & Ollie in the theater. But it’s certainly worth considering on demand, when the mood strikes for a peak behind the curtain of the Laurel & Hardy comedy mystique.
For chat about Stan & Ollie as well new releases Glass and Cold War, tune in to this episode of the Cinema Clash podcast, and be sure to subscribe on iTunes! It’s free! 🙂