By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
From the 1920s through the 1930s, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were a popular and thusly, highly successful comedy duo making high profile Hollywood movies. Their film career as a pair would eventually get derailed by personal differences, the changing state of the business, and the inevitable evolution of motion pictures. In 1953, the duo reconciled and agreed to go on a live, European tour. This new film by Jon S. Baird dramatizes this final pairing of the beloved duo and how their personal grudges never truly dissipated. Starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly, Stan & Ollie is a heartfelt and endearing tribute to these Hollywood legends during their last hurrah.
Baird, with a screenplay by Jeff Pope has made a straightforward, bare bones movie that reveals the truly sensitive human sides of both Laurel & Hardy. This is made possible through the superb performances by both Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly. Not only do the lead actors have the comedic duo’s signature mannerisms, body language and facial expressions down perfectly, they perform exceptionally in their more personal, behind the scenes moments. Both Coogan and Reilly share a perfect chemistry of comic timing and genuine friendship that is sometimes at odds.
The film also stars Shirley Henderson as Hardy’s loving, but sometimes stern wife Lucille and Nina Arianda as Laurel’s tough, no-nonsense and dominant wife Ida Kitaeva. Both actresses perform wonderfully in their roles and also share an unmistakable, near-antagonistic che mistry of their own. These moments certainly contribute much to the humor in the film.
Which is, of course, an obligatory element of this story. How can a filmmaker, or any storyteller for that matter, present a story about Laurel and Hardy without humor? The overall result is a great movie which shows much love for its characters–warts and all. It is a film I highly recommend for anyone, especially those unfamiliar with the legendary duo.