Review: Laurel & Hardy come back to life In 'Stan & Ollie'
Stan & Ollie is a film to see if you remember and loved the comic duo, Laurel & Hardy, or even if you didn’t love them. The outstanding portrayal of the two men — makeup, posture and especially the acting together almost made me believe that I was watching the legendary pair themselves.
John C. Reilly is Oliver Hardy and Steve Coogan is Stan Laurel in this biopic that focuses on the latter part of their career. They had been idle and apart for about 15 years, and now a promoter is organizing a tour of Britain featuring their act.
They have no problem recreating their routines, although a little slower at an advanced age. At first, audiences are sparse, but as the tour continues, the attendance grows to full houses of enthusiastic fans who realize how much they miss seeing the duo in films. This was to be their farewell tour.
We do see several scenes and episodes in the early years of their partnership, when they were the most successful comedy team in movies. Reilly and Coogan reproduce the comedy acts perfectly. A highlight in the film is watching Reilly and Coogan give us a terrific replay of the two men dancing in the film, Way Out West (1937). There are so many other scenes where we see them perform the bits that made Laurel & Hardy famous and loved. And it is revealed, if you did not know it, that Laurel was the principal writer of their routines.
The main focus of Stan & Ollie is the relationship between the two stars. They were very close and supportive of each other. There is a crucial scene where they are working under contract to Hal Roach, a major film producer. Stan’s contract is expiring while Ollie’s is still in force. Stan wants more money for their act; Roach refuses and Ollie concedes. It causes some tension between the two men, but they survive the episode.
Later in the film, during the farewell tour, there is a serious falling out. The result is a bitter scene where decades of minor resentments are expressed as major differences in an argument taking place at a large celebrity party. The guests watch and assume they are play acting, so they laugh. But the partnership is in danger of falling apart.
Hardy falls ill. His drinking, gambling woes and over-eating have taken their toll. He is ordered by doctors not to continue on stage. Laurel tries to work with a new partner, but it doesn’t work for him and the result is a reconciliation between Stan and Ollie, based on the love and regard they have for each other.
The wives of Stan and Ollie (Nina Arianda and Shirley Henderson) are anchors for their men. They are good friends, but they have some issues when the men are at odds.
Steve Coogan is an accomplished star who has played in many movies and TV series. His performance in the 2013 film Philomena earned him an Oscar nomination. As Stan Laurel he is just about perfect with the gait, facial expressions, look of confusion and other Laurel attributes. The same is true of John C. Reilly, in another excellent performance as Oliver Hardy.
Stan & Ollie is a film that gives us lots of laughs and there are some parts to move us to tears. It is a worthwhile movie to see and to relive some movie history.