The latest portrayal about the greatest comedy duo, Laurel and Hardy, deserves to have the title: “Stan & Ollie.” It’s made for people who admired them, and for people who want to learn about them, depending on what generation they live in. And you also have some fantastic work from Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel, and John C. Reilly (covered with make-up) as Oliver “Ollie” Hardy.
The movie takes place in the 50s when Laurel and Hardy go on a comedy tour in Europe, when not many small theaters are selling out, either because of retirement rumor, financial problems, or the new generation demanding new material (they prefer TV as opposed to theaters). They still have a lot of fans, but of course, they have to reach a dramatic part of their career. Their “Robin Hood” spoof can’t go into production, due to their studio’s money problems, and Ollie’s medical condition forces him to retire.
Director Jon S. Baird and writer Jeff Pope both give “Stan & Ollie” an honest and warmhearted study on Laurel and Hardy. They capture the moments and time periods, while deliberating on what new generations wanted at that time. Both Coogan and Reilly are fantastic as the comedy duo. They wear the right outfits, they have the character study, and Reilly has the right make-up as Hardy. This is what I like to call casting.
The movie also has fun with Laurel and Hardy’s antics, whether they’re movie clips or reality. And through the process of acting and filmmaking, I was having a fun time watching the performances and humor. I love when Laurel puts his finger in his mouth and pops up his hat in a waiting room, and when Hardy sits in a hospital bed and gets bonked on during a show. This is made for fans.
And you even have some nice supporting work from Nina Arianda as Stan’s Russian wife, who prevents him from drinking, and ironically becomes drunk, and Shirley Henderson as Ollie’s tiny wife, who worries about his heath. These two help keep the duo in check.
It may not have the full history, like how they met and where they discovered their talents, but “Stan & Ollie” still offers a sweet and lovable touch, while showing us their later years. And I can’t get over how perfect Reilly’s make-up is. He really does capture Hardy’s magic, and so does Coogan as Laurel.