Laurel and Hardy were one of the most successful comedy acts of all time.
Comprised of Stanley “Stan” Laurel and Oliver “Ollie” Hardy, the pair became extremely well-known from the 1920s to the 1940s. Specializing in slapstick comedy, Laurel played the bumbling, childlike friend of the pompous Hardy. Over the course of their career, the duo appeared together in 107 films. Directed by Jon S. Baird, Stan & Ollie takes a delightful, heartwarming look at their lives and collective legacy.
The film starts off in 1937 where, while in the midst of making Way Out West at Hal Roach Studios, Laurel (Steve Coogan) attempts to renegotiate the terms of his contract with Hal Roach (Danny Huston). Laurel believes Roach isn’t adequately compensating the pair given the wide-reaching popularity they had at the time. Roach balks and instead lets Laurel’s contract lapse.
Unfortunately, Hardy (John C. Reilly) is on a different contract and Roach decides to hold on to him, attempting to pair the star up with Harry Langdon (Richard Cant) in the film Zenobia. Laurel and Hardy get back together before too long, but Ollie’s absence during a meeting with Fox ends in them not being picked up by the studio. This action leaves Laurel with feeling betrayed and bitterness for many years to come.
Things then fast forward to 1953, when the Laurel and Hardy embark on a tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland. The duo struggle with a loss of relevance and due to this have a difficult time getting another film made, a comedic version of Robin Hood. Less than stellar planning by their producer Bernard Delfont (Rufus Jones) results in practically empty theaters. Delfont organizes some public appearances and it results in much more encouraging ticket sales.
Soon, however, the pair begins to struggle with other issues like Laurel’s long-standing resentment and Ollie’s failing heart. It soon becomes a battle to finish the tour with both their relationship and lives intact. Other cast members include Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda, who respectively played their wives, Lucille Hardy, and Ida Kitaeva Laurel. Both turned in great performances, especially Arianda.
I greatly enjoyed the sentimental nature of Stan & Ollie. It’s a lovely tribute to two men whose comedic gifts kept generations of moviegoers in stitches. Coogan and Reilly did a truly remarkable job portraying the duo; their chemistry was quite evident and impressions were on point. Filled with plenty of humorous and touching moments, Stan & Ollie was a joy to see.
I give Stan & Ollie four out of five stars.