Stan & Ollie

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Stan & Ollie

Runtime 97 minutes PG

Is it fair to downgrade a movie because it isn’t what you expected and desired? I was disappointed sitting through this because I was expecting a celebration of Hollywood in the ‘20s and ‘30s through the story of Laurel & Hardy.

‘Twas not to be.

Directed by John S. Baird from a script by Jeff Pope, this is actually the story of a little known tour of England by the boys in 1953 as reported by AJ Marriot in his book Laurel & Hardy: The British Tours.

So even though they made over 107 films between 1927 and 1950 (32 silent shorts, 40 sound shorts, 23 features and 12 cameos), this occurs after that and that’s unfortunate.

Because I have always been a fan, I was dubious about watching two actors try to impersonate Laurel & Hardy, but I have to admit that Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are as close to the real thing as anybody could ever get. The acting is nothing short of superb. The few skits that are shown are well done, as is the final dance.

But this is an end of life story, the curtain-closing act. While it is interesting and touches your heart, it was a terrific disappointment to me because of what I had anticipated. I think it is poor judgment for the filmmakers to make an entire film devoted to Laurel & Hardy for generations that don’t really know them and concentrate on end of life and relationship issues instead of telling the story of how they met, how they came to be a team and reach the enormous success and acclaim that was theirs.

That’s why I’m warning you what to expect. It’s a shame that Coogan and Reilly contributed their enormous talents to a film that doesn’t really do justice to their brilliance and success.

If this were a story of some run of the mill comedy team that worked together for a long time but weren’t the huge success that Laurel & Hardy were, a film like this would be appropriate. But until a biopic that tells the story of the amazing success they were and how that happened, a film like this is untimely and does their legacy no good.

Stay for the closing credits and watch the real Stan & Ollie do a dance together on a western set.

Tony Medley is an MPAA-accredited film critic. See more reviews at TonyMedley.com.

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