The world’s most famous comedy duo, Laurel and Hardy, attempt to reignite their film careers as they embark on what becomes their swan song - a grueling variety hall tour of post-war Britain and Ireland. But lo and behold, the magic is still there.
The public adored the antics of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy during their screen heyday in the late 1920s through mid-40s – after all, they made 107 films together. But with a changing world, they wanted to stay relevant as their golden era faded, especially with the powers at be, so they worked hard at a crowd-pleasing slapstick act they could take on the road.
The lovingly crafted biopic, “Stan and Ollie,” shows their struggles and triumphs, and is a bittersweet tribute to a different landscape. Advancing age and career regrets create some issues, showing the harsh biz behind the show, but the film offers a luminous look at their unmistakable chemistry and charm.
The film is rich in details – and much to my delight, recreates some of their most famous schtick in real-life situations.
Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are splendid as the duo, disappearing into their roles – they transformed themselves physically, of course, but their subtle body language is remarkable. The pair also convey a complicated relationship, sharing their personal heartaches and career headaches with a sweet poignancy, and bickering like people who spend a lot of time together.
Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda are delightful as the wives Lucille and Ida.
The film’s burnished glow takes us through the years and the music score accents the period piece beautifully. You can’t have a movie about Laurel and Hardy without “The Cuckoo Song,” now can you?
Naturally, they don’t make movies like this very much anymore, but I am sure glad they did this one – a valentine to movie lovers for the ages.