Director: Jon S. Baird.
Cast: Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda, Rufus Jones, Danny Huston.
|The horse was eventually sacked by the studio, but Laurel and Hardy continued as a duo.|
Coogan's performance as Laurel is also good (if a little caricaturish at times), and this starring pair goes a long way toward making up for the shortcomings of this dramedy.
After an impressive single-take intro that shows Laurel and Hardy at work in their heyday in 1937, the story skips forward to 1953, where the ageing pair begin a lengthy theatre tour of England and Ireland amid lacklustre promotion from their producer Bernard Delfont (Jones). As the tour progresses and Delfont finally gets some publicity happening, the crowds begin to improve, but the relationship between Laurel and Hardy is on the decline.
For a film about one of the greatest comedy pairings of all time, Stan & Ollie isn't as amusing as you hope it would be. The recreations of some of their best bits is a hoot (their "Double Door" routine is a classic), as are some of Laurel's one-liners, but it's not as funny as you would expect.
The drama element is also a little underdone. Tensions supposedly simmering for many years aren't evident in the way the relationship is predominately portrayed - instead they burst almost out of nowhere in one scene, and the damage is then repaired all too quickly. Thankfully there are other issues to overcome, so the film is never dull, but given that the relationship is the centrepiece of the film, some more ups and downs would have helped.
In spite of the slightly undercooked drama and the need of a bit more comedic spice, Stan & Ollie is an enjoyable meal. As mentioned, Reilly's performance is the highlight, and the way he and Coogan work together, particularly in the skit recreations, is a real joy.
The story itself is interesting, and a good vehicle for exploring the nature of Laurel and Hardy's legacy. In many ways, it's a nice tribute to their careers, as well as the obvious fondness they shared for each other.
I wanted to laugh and cry more in this, in part due to the obvious affection the filmmakers, Reilly and Coogan seemingly have for these two giants of comedy - an affection you can't help but share by the time the credits roll. In lieu of these emotional extremities, Stan & Ollie suffices as an okay-enough look into the later lives of two legends.