Published Jan 17, 2019An important disclaimer: do not confuse this movie with Holmes & Watson, another retro buddy comedy starring John C. Reilly that is also currently in cinemas. While that recent flick is famously terrible, Stan & Ollie is a warm-hearted biopic about once-famed comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.
The film follows the pair's late-career tour of the UK, when Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (Reilly) reunited in an attempt to drum up interest in a planned film project in the early '50s.
The story takes a while to get going, since it quickly becomes apparent that Laurel & Hardy's wholesome brand of aw-shucks comedy isn't particularly funny in 2018. There are scenes where the pair does a synchronized dance routine while the audience howls with laughter, and the punch lines consist of things like dropping a weight on someone's head or dragging a suitcase up the stairs only to have it slide back down. Did people honestly find this stuff that hilarious?
But even though it isn't funny, Stan & Ollie improves dramatically once conflict arrives in the form of their wives, who fly in from America to join the tour. Oliver's wife Lucille (Shirley Henderson) is more concerned about her husband's failing health than his performances, while Stan's wife Ida (Nina Arianda) is prickly and self-involved.
With their comeback floundering and Oliver suffering from heart problems, the guys begin to butt heads, and are ultimately forced to choose between their friendship and their careers. It's truly touching.
It's all fairly predictable stuff, but it's very sweet nonetheless — especially thanks to fantastic performances from Reilly and Coogan. They're the spitting image of Laurel and Hardy, and they project a loveable warmth even when the jokes haven't particularly stood the test of time.
(Sony Pictures Classic)