Stan and Ollie, rated PG
Stan and Ollie is a well-made, funny and at times emotional film about the final tour of the popular comedy team of Laurel and Hardy. The film is directed by Jon S. Baird and written by Oscar nominee Jeff Pope (Philomena), based on the book Laurel and Hardy: The British Tours by A.J. Marriot.
The film begins in 1937 on the set of the film Way Out West being filmed at the Hal Roach Studios. Laurel and Hardy are at the peak of their popularity, but Stan Laurel, played by two-time Oscar nominee Steve Coogan (Philomena) doesn’t feel that Roach, played by Golden Globe nominee Danny Huston (Magic City), is adequately compensating them, and he plans to push for more money for the duo. Oliver Hardy, played by Oscar nominee John C. Reilly (Chicago), doesn’t want him to push too hard, as he has debts – multiple marriages, gambling on the horses – so he is fine to keep his job with the salary just as it is. Oliver is under a different contract, and so when Stan leaves Roach, Oliver is forced to stay and partner with comedian Harry Langdon in the 1939 film Zenobia.
The movie then moves forward to 1953. The duo goes on a comeback tour of Scotland, London and Ireland to encourage a London-based film producer to finance a Robin Hood film. By this time, Hardy has gained more weight, and has heart and knee problems. Throughout the tour we see Laurel working hard on the Robin Hood film script.
The tour gets off to a rocky start as they are booked into a small run-down hotel in Scotland. On top of that, their promoter Bernard Delfont, played by Rufus Jones, has booked them into small second-rate theatres and done basically no promotion of the tour. He seems much more interested in another of his artists. As a result, very small but enthusiastic crowds turn out for the first few shows. Delfont suggests that the duo make free publicity appearances to help raise attention for the tour. It works, the crowds get bigger, and soon they are playing to enthusiastic full houses. Unfortunately, Stan can’t get the film producer to return any of his phone calls.
When the duo reaches London, their wives join them at the prestigious Savoy Hotel. Lucille Hardy is played by Nina Arianda (“Moaning Myrtle” from the Harry Potter films), and Ida Kitaeva Laurel is played by Shirley Henderson (Midnight in Paris). The wives have an interesting relationship to say the least, and both actresses play their roles well. Laurel and Hardy are booked to play a sold-out two-week residency at the Lyceum Theatre. But at a party after the opening night show, long held resentments come out in an argument.
I really enjoyed this film, even though I knew very little about Laurel and Hardy. Reilly (his makeup for the role took four hours to apply), and Coogan were excellent in the roles of Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel, and had good chemistry together. The film was funny at times and at other times it was serious and sad.
Themes in the film include friendship, hurt feelings, health issues and reconciliation. Content issues are minimal, just a few mild obscenities.
Stan and Ollie is an enjoyable film about the last tour of the comedy team Laurel and Hardy. It is well-acted by John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan.