“Stan and Ollie”, a biographical look at the marvelous comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, starring John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan, is a godsend to people of a certain age (ahem) that spent way too much time as a teen watching these two on late night TV, or afternoon kids shows.
The film is centered on the team’s later years as they undertake a grueling 1953 UK tour of live performances with the hopes of attracting financing for a comeback in a Stan Laurel production of “Robin Hood”. The film opens with a wonderful backstage look at Stan and Ollie during production of one of their full length films, “Way Out West”. This sets the stage for the contractual conflict between producer Hal Roach and the popular team, which leads to their eventual breakup. Both actors are fantastic.
Steve Coogan has proven his fantastic gifts as a mimic in the wonderful “Trip” films with fellow comedian-actor Rob Brydon, and he absolutely nails Stan Laurel’s voice, looks, and mannerisms, as the creative force behind Laurel and Hardy’s success.
The real revelation here is John C. Reilly’s Oliver Hardy, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination. The makeup alone deserves an Oscar, too bad Christian Bale’s “Vice” transformation as Dick Cheney will undoubtedly overshadow this achievement. More importantly, Reilly’s acting as the sweet natured Hardy is phenomenal, especially in the moments offstage, when he deals with his health issues and the toll of a long life of slapstick. I worked with him in Robert Altman’s film “A Prairie Home Companion”, so his acting, singing skills are no surprise to me.
Shirley Henderson and Nina Ariande steal several scenes as the “Mutt and Jeff”-like wives of Hardy and Laurel. My only wish is that the director John Baird and writer Jeff Pope had limited the comic shtick to the many wonderful stage recreations of their most famous bits and given us more of the real personalities of the duo. There are a number of winks to their films that will appeal to the hard core “Sons of the Desert” aficionados during the offstage scenes of “Stan and Ollie” that might detract from the poignant story of their real love for each other, but that’s a small quibble.
My GPA: :3.8