Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were a hugely successful double act of the silver screen during the late 1920’s and 30’s. Put together by Hal Roach (the producer of many of their movies) the duo was a big hit due to their immaculate comedy timing, timeless jokes and a chemistry that defied science. Even today they are well loved and have influenced many double acts, from Abbot and Costello to The Chuckle Brothers. Not bad for a couple of actors who were put together simply because one was fat and the other was thin.
Twenty years after it seemed that their best days were behind them, Stan (Steve Coogan) and Ollie (John C. Reilly) find themselves overseas in England to do a series of live shows to raise money for a movie that Stan is excited to be writing – their first in a very long time. So, the famous pair are welcomed to England, although the welcome that they are given is not quite up to the standard that they were expecting. Their entertainment manager Bernard Delfont (Rufus Jones) assures them that they will be treated in the manner that they deserve. However, they soon start to suspect that they’re not being told the full story.
Stan & Ollie is a biopic of arguably Hollywood’s most well-known comedy double act. Both Coogan and Reilly clearly come across as big fans of the pair and their performances lovingly recreate the personas of the two men as if they were still alive. The chemistry between the two actors also mirrors that of the people they are portraying, helping to bring them back to life for the die-hard fans and for those who may only having a passing knowledge of the Laurel and Hardy legacy. Also, the film brings back some of the partnership’s most famous routines that Coogan and Reilly perform with as much precision and careful thought as when they were conceived all those years ago.
The supporting cast are excellent as well, Jones brings a devious charm to Delfont’s sleazy agent and most surprisingly is the addition of Stan and Ollie’s wives who join their husbands on tour and perhaps even to spoil their good time. Stan’s wife, Ida (Nina Arianda) and Ollie’s wife Lucille (Shirley Henderson) are probably the biggest surprise of the film and are a most welcome distraction from a story that may have gone stale if there wasn’t something to build up the rising tension. As Delfont says, the film gives the audience two double acts for the price of one and that addition to the script is inspired, further fleshing out the lives of the aging comedy couple.
Stan & Ollie is a heart-warming, crowd pleasing and uplifting biopic. For a movie about two actors that made some of the funniest films in cinema history, the source material would speak for itself and still entertain as it did all those years ago. But to be able to lovingly put their lives back on the silver screen whilst being so honest, loyal and respectful of the lives of Laurel and Hardy is a joy to see for both ardent fans and those who will discover their on screen magic for the first time.
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