Edition 29 November, by James Luxford
While the story of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy’s latter days as a duo are worth exploring, Stan & Ollie is a curious proposition for many. While the pair were one of the biggest box offi ce draws of their time, it’s likely younger viewers will not have heard of them, with even older audiences unlikely to have experienced their 20s-40s heyday. That being said, their legacy is such that fi lm lovers will no doubt be curious to see such an iconic duo recreated on screen. Steven Coogan and John C Reilly play Laurel and Hardy respectively, in a dramatisation of the pair’s 1955 tour of Britain. The tour would turn out to be their last, with the pair’s popularity dwindling as audiences grow tired of the ‘same old material’. Stan and Ollie also wrestle with the fading spotlight, blaming each other for the mistakes of the past. However, with Hardy’s health failing, the pair must work on the differences and try to recapture their old magic.
The film is enormously affection- ate toward its subjects, faithfully recreating the period and stage routines to illustrate just how good they were together, even as Hollywood had forgotten them. The routines and chemistry between the two men is perfectly captured, with the fi lm at its best when putting the two men in front of a crowd. Less effective is the story, that gives very little for the talented cast to chew on and moves with a leisurely purpose toward a conclusion that’s not entirely unexpected. Still, the two stars lift proceedings, and while they may not make the fi lm special, they do make it thoroughly entertaining. Reilly is startlingly good in prosthetic make-up, portraying Hardy as an affable man with a natural charisma whose heart is always in the right place, even when his head isn’t. Coogan’s Laurel is more driven, tightly wound, and carrying bitterness about the past that provides one of the more compelling aspects of the fi lm. Both are tremendous and convey so much with often plain material, that by the end of the fi lm you are truly invested in their relationship. As a historical document, Stan and Ollie may not be the deep examination fans of the pair would hope for. As a tribute to Hollywood greats of the past, however, Reilly and Coogan remind you exactly why we are still talking about them nearly a century from their debut.