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“Stan & Ollie” Memorable and Heartfelt




Review by John Delia

Back in the day when vaudeville was where most of the comic’s started out, two men rose up to be the funniest duo in the movie business. Billed as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, they went on to make over a 180 short films and about two dozen full features. Most of their films were used as an add-on for a drama, western and even some comedies.

They made their slapstick comedy a drawing card to fill movie theater seats and keep the audience laughing until the curtain rose again for the feature. Some of their movies were of the silent type using sound effects, printed wording and music, but before long talkies brought on an era of sound where the two comics came up with routines that would make you cry laughing.

John C. Reilly as Oliver Ollie Hardy and Steve Coogan as Stanley Stan Laurel in “Stan & Ollie” a Sony Pictures Classics release

With this in mind, Director Jon S. Baird decided to do a biography that covers the waning years of the two greats and this is where we find Stan and Ollie in an opening scene of his film. The card reads “By the summer of 1937 Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy were the biggest comedy stars in Hollywood. Loved by audience and critics alike, their films were dubbed into multiple languages and watched by millions around the world. They had reached the top…”

It’s Culver City, California and the two funny men are wrapped up in a decision whether Stan, who’s at the end of his contract, should not re-sign his contract with Hal Roach Studios. Stan wants Ollie to resign from his contract, but with his debt and ex-wife Madeline wanting money, he’s at a crossroads. The two split and so begins a separation that will keep them apart until Stan comes up with a grand idea of taking the Stan & Ollie show on the road for one last tour. So begins a funny, sad and heartfelt story that brings the two closer to each other than they had ever been.

Nina Arianda as Ida Kitaeva Laurel and Steve Coogan as Stanley Laurel in “Stan & Ollie” a Sony Pictures Classics release

Baird delivers the top film I’ve seen for the 2018 year releases. But, being I was not able to view it in time for my year end choices, it hangs there in my heart and mind as the best. It’s surly John C. Reilly’s best effort ever, and for Steve Coogan his performance equals Reilly’s as well. Adding depth and balance to the film we see the two men from the perspective of their wives Shirley Henderson as Lucille Hardy and Nina Arianda as Ida Kitaeva Laurel. Having seen many of the Laurel and Hardy films, this depiction of their lives is spot on. They are dead ringers of the two screen giants and the nuances that brought the men fame are shown within their amazing portrayals. If Reilly and Coogan’s performances don’t get nominated for an Oscar, it will be a downer for me.

John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy in “Stan & Ollie” a Sony Pictures Classics release

The skits, dances and slapstick routines are beyond the beyond. Baird’s choice of songs still come to mind in my head and it’s been long after watching this film and the original so many years ago on television. Costumes are tailored to perfection and make-up provides the looks and expressions that are unforgettable. It’s like watching the real Stan and Ollie as they bounce line after line off each other creating the laughter that brought them fame.

As a side note, years ago I was in a store that had a DVD sale on some of the older films. On a lark I picked up several that were priced at $3 each. One of them is part of a double feature of Laurel & Hardy in their very last film together. It’s a black and white film called Utopia made in 1951. The film follows the boys going to an island they inherited in the South Seas. The other is a silent short 26 minute film made in 1922 called Mud and Sand. It starred Stan Laurel only as Rhubarb Vaseline a bull fighter. It wouldn’t be until 1927 before Stan and Laurel hooked up as a comedy team. You never know when you are going to find a gem, so don’t pass up that sale bin.

Stan & Ollie has been rated PG by the MPAA for some language, and for smoking. Even if you are not familiar with Laurel and Hardy, you’ll love their comedy and biography. The film opens in South Florida on Friday.

FINAL ANALYSIS: An excellent film with fine acting, directing and storyline. (5 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston, Nina Arianda, Rufus Jones, Susy Kane
Directed by: Jon S. Baird
Written by: Jeff Pope
Genre: Comedy, Biography, Drama
MPAA Rating: PG for some language, and for smoking
Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min.
Opening Date: January 18, 2019
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Released in: Standard

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