I got into Laurel & Hardy, I imagine how a lot of people who weren’t around when Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel were originally around did, via my father who worships the ground they walk on, believing they can do no wrong.
I grew up watching their films and it is most likely Laurel & Hardy that gave me my love of comedy and slapstick humour. I’m fully aware of these two titans of the screen, they were the biggest selling on-screen duo of their time, their films translated into hundreds of languages and played around the world.
I’m also aware of some of the story, that Hal Roach, the producer behind most of their films, was taking a larger and larger cut, that both men married multiple times, that neither were particularly flush with cash despite their fame.
Stan & Ollie tells the end of the double-acts partnership, at a time when they hadn’t been in a movie together for a while and when the world had turned to new acts like Norman Wisdom and Abbot & Costello.
The pair undertake one last tour of the UK, initially playing to small theatres in places like Newcastle and Hull, to small crowds who thought they’d both retired. The pair are doing the tour whilst they gain investment for a new film, one that Stan is writing, to do with Robin Hood, a film that never happens.
As the pair continue on their tour, they eventually confront each other about the elephant in the room, or rather, the elephant on the screen. As Stan Laurel left Hal Roach studios, trying to get Oliver Hardy to come with him, Hardy made a film without his partner, Elephants Never Forget, something that Stan found it difficult to understand or forgive him for.
Whilst Coogan manages to nail the performance side of Stan, his mannerisms mainly, it’s Reilly who truly stands out. Not only does he look like Ollie, but he sounds and acts just like him too. It really is an amazing performance, like he was born to do it.
The film itself features a few of the more famous performances, routines and songs, though some of these can feel shoe-horned in at times just for the sake of it.
Stan & Ollie is a lovely, sweet film, telling the story of these two men who were so well known throughout the world, but not many people know their story, particularly now.
Is it the film the greatest comedy double-act of all time deserve? I don’t think so, but it will do for now and that, in large part, is thanks to John C. Reilly.