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Stan & Ollie – Movie Review

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Stan & Ollie – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films

Even if one has never seen a Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy picture, their images have managed to stand the test of time. The teaming up of a larger-set fellow and a smaller, thinner chap is one long popular in comedy and Laurel & Hardy unquestionably paved the way for similar screen duos. Stan & Ollie has an enormous amount of respect for them, even as it shows their partnership crumbling apart. How much of this film is factual will depend on the historians, but director Jon S. Baird has crafted a lovely film and focusing on their London tour is a smart move.

The film does provide a few flashbacks at their Hollywood career and Baird has done splendidly in recreating that earlier era. Director of photography Laurie Rose’s tracking shot through the Hal Roach Studios is remarkable, as we follow after Laurel and Hardy. There’s a wonderful feeling when watching the classic film techniques at work and most importantly, it’s easy to buy Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as the duo. If they had been off, the movie might have fallen apart. However, the second they start dancing and displaying their physical comedy, they become those roles. It makes their later strain all the more heartbreaking.

Stan & Ollie appropriately throws in a few comedy scenes in between the more dramatic moments and Coogan and Reilly nail the physical requirements. There’s a great bit with some suitcases and a bell, along with a cute nod to their famous short The Music Box. Their on-stage performances are nicely recreated and also produce laughs. Reilly is buried under a fat suit and prosthetic makeup in order to look like Hardy, but he never feels restricted. He portrays the pain and health issues he’s going through really well and that creates the necessary sympathy for him. Both Laurel and Hardy are flawed individuals, but their frustrations are understandable.

The movie also nicely gives proper development to their wives. Nina Arianda and Shirley Henderson share many scenes together and have humourous chemistry. Stan & Ollie is smart enough to realise the importance wives play in shaping their more famous husbands. Despite the serious moments that show the breaking apart of their professional relationship, the film really shows the importance of comedy. Some of the most heartfelt parts are when fans come up to Laurel and Hardy and talk about how much joy they have brought into their lives. There is a genuine love for their comedy in Stan & Ollie and the film shows how their material has remained timeless.

Stan & Ollie seeks to be a celebration of Laurel and Hardy, even as it peeks behind the curtains. While the off stage scenes are good, it’s how Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly manage to bring their routines to life that impresses. Jon S. Baird directs the film with a bittersweet feeling, showing that their partnership wasn’t so rosy off-stage, but nonetheless nostalgically remembering their classic comedy. There is an enormous respect for Laurel and Hardy and an understanding of what they went through as they attempted to keep their career going. However, maybe the best times are what we should remember and this is a worthy addition to their legacy.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison