Review by Geoff Jenke
Laurel and Hardy, the world’s favourite comedy double act, set out on a variety hall tour of Britain in 1953. Diminished by age and with their golden era as the kings of Hollywood comedy now behind them, they face an uncertain future. As they start crisscrossing the country, attendances are disappointingly low. But they’ve always been able to make each other laugh and as the charm and beauty of their performances shines through their audiences laugh too, and they re-connect with legions of adoring fans, old and new.
The tour becomes a hit, but Stan (Steve Coogan, currently also starring in Holmes & Watsonand Ralph Breaks the Internet) and Ollie (John C. Reilly) can’t quite shake the spectre of Laurel and Hardy’s past and long buried ghosts. Coupled with Oliver’s failing health, the tour starts to threaten their precious partnership.
A portrait of the most tender and poignant of creative marriages begins to unfold as the duo, aware that they may be approaching their swan song, try to rediscover just how much they mean to each other.
Laurel and Hardy have been regarded as the greatest comedy duo in movie history. They made over 107 film appearances, 23 of which were silent movies. This movie is based on the book by AJ Marriot, Laurel & Hardy: The British Tours and directed by Jon S. Baird.
The movie is a beautiful love story between two men (not in a romantic way) and also between them and their wives, Lucille Hardy (Shirley Henderson) and Ida Kitaeva Laurel (Nina Arianda), who at times steal the limelight with some very funny comedy. Steve and John play the parts delightfully and will have you laughing at some of the skits they are putting on. Remember that Laurel & Hardy actually did these skits to a live audience. The film opens with the boys at the height of their career and soon fast forwards 16 years later when they are hitting rock bottom. It actually fast forwards a little too fast, as a bit more information about their decline would have been nice.
Stan & Ollie is not a complete comedy, in fact many of the scenes not involving their routines, showing their real life, are sad and mournful. Ollie’s ill health and vices have run him down despite all his fame and wealth.
While the film is touching and entertaining, it is hard to see anyone under the age of 50 being all that interested in this film because they will have no idea who Laurel & Hardy are. So, if you are an older parent or grandparent, take the kids along for a history lesson on two of the funniest men who ever walked the earth.
Some classic Stan Laurel quotes:
“You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be led”
“I had a dream that I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep”
“Another fine mess you’ve gotten me into”
“If any of you cry at my funeral, I will never speak to you again”