Review: STAN & OLLIE

By Josh Muchly

You don’t watch a movie like this for the twists and turns; you watch for the magic. And it’s magical indeed.

Upshot: A story centering on Laurel and Hardy’s UK farewell tour in the early 1950s, an adaptation of a book by A.J. Marriot.

High-point: Steve Coogan, hands down. You’ll be blown away by his ability to be recreate Stan Laurel.

Low-point: there is nothing surprising in the plot; nothing you can’t figure out from the trailer. Then again, while a surprise or two wouldn’t have hurt, you don’t watch a movie like this for the twists and turns; you watch for the magic. And it’s magical indeed.

Rundown: director Jon S. Baird acknowledges that the majesty of these two men will never be fully captured again, yet he attempts to do as as much as possible. And succeeds.

We’re introduced to Stan and Ollie through a glass darkly — literally, via their dressing room mirrors — followed by long shots of the two walking and gabbing through a Hollywood lot, from which we learn their respective mannerisms, their personalities and their dynamic. Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly take it from there.

Where Coogan excels, Reilly matches; the two are equals. We lose sight of Riley beneath the almost-too-rubbery prosthetic, which is especially impressive considering his performance is more physical than Coogan’s —  though both of them work their asses off to capture Laurel and Hardy silent-film and stage antics. However, Coogan carries the more emotional performance and more often.

Likewise, the protagonists’ wives, Lucille Hardy and Ida Kitaeva Laure, are played with charm and sincerity by Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda, respectively. Well done!

There are minor references to Stan Laurel’s Communist sensibilities which, in hindsight, feel like a missed opportunity: they could have provided a unexpected conflict of some sort. Alternatively, a more straightforward case for Communism could have been made — as in those found in Jay Roach’s TRUMBO (2015).

Nonethless, Baird recreates the 1930’s and 50’s in a way that cinephiles will enjoy, with references to Classical Hollywood and other stars of the era (Abbott and Castello), with most of the film set in different parts of the UK, which keeps it fresh. I can’t say exactly why, but the scenes in London reminded me of MARY POPPINS (1964), and that was fun.

Overall, fans of the comedy duo will be pleased with the film, I have no doubt. I, for one, feel compelled to view more “Laurel and Hardy” content after watching this film.

STAN & OLLIE is available to rent on Amazon Video, Redbox, and for purchase on disc.

Rating: 6/7

Follow Josh Muchly @muchlymedia on Twitter

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5.00 avg. rating (94% score) - 1 vote

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