STAN & OLLIE
* * * *
(Laurel & Hardy's later years)
We never saw Laurel and Hardy in person, but we sure laughed at the movies, which are still classics today. With Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy, this tale of the comic duo's later years is funny, poignant and nostalgic. Coogan and Reilly both portray their characters with great sympathy and understanding, making you believe that they really are Stan and Ollie.
The opening scene beautifully sets the stage as the two actors walk through the studio back lot, on their way to making a movie directed by Hal Roach. The clever camera work makes you feel like you are walking along with them.
Along the way, we get a bit of a backstory about Stan, the writer and business man of the two, and Ollie, the drinker/gambler/womanizer. While completely different personalities offstage, their work onstage and before the cameras is brilliant.
It is 1937, and they are at the top of their game. Suddenly, it is 1953. Laurel and Hardy are touring England. Their popularity has waned and they find themselves playing smaller houses and audiences and staying in second-rate hotels. Television has become the rage, and younger comedians like Abbot and Costello are making the headlines.
We follow Stan and Ollie through England, always looking on the bright side and continuing to please smaller audiences with their classic routines. Watching Coogan and Reilly recreate some of them is a highlight of the movie. If you don't giggle over the railroad station bit, check your pulse. "That's a fine mess you got me into, Ollie,” is delivered with perfect timing, as are the clever song and dance routine.
Alas, the late years are not that kind to Stan and Ollie, as a picture deal gets shaky, Ollie gets sick, and the pair have a major spat. But hang in there for the poignant conclusion to this wonderful film and the two actors who bring Laurel and Hardy to life.
Rated PG with some profanity. While the younger crowd will probably laugh at the corny humor, we older folks will remember it fondly.