CREDIT: Sony Pictures Classics

This post was originally published on News Cult in December 2018.

Starring: Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda, Danny Huston

Director: Jon S. Baird

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Rating: PG for A Few Adult Arguments

Release Date: December 28, 2018 (Limited)

If you’ve ever thought that Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly should team up to play legendary screen duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, then you must be their biggest fans or their close friends. Stan & Ollie very much feels like a passion project, and it also has the vibe of a secret present, because who in 2018 would have ever thought to ask if anyone wanted to make this movie? Coogan and Reilly have their subjects’ signature gestures down pat, and various real life scenes play out with a charming blend of misanthropic physical comedy in the vein of heavy luggage sliding down a staircase. The year is 1953, and Laurel and Hardy’s cinematic glory days are well over and never to re-emerge, though Stan is hard at work writing a screenplay about Robin Hood and incessantly tracking down a producer. But to actually make some dough and earn some new laughs, they head out on a tour of live shows in Britain and Ireland.

The primary, low-key charm of Stan & Ollie is the culmination of two longtime companions realizing the depth of their connection. The pressures of the road lead to simmering resentments being aired out, but those blowouts clear the way for these two to reaffirm that they are more than just partners but are in fact true and loyal friends who might as well put on one more show for as long it can last. Their relationship is mirrored by that between their wives, who are often at odds with each other as they stand firmly in their husbands’ corners. It is the third marriage for both of them, but it appears that the third time’s the charm. Stan’s wife Ida (Nina Arianda) is a bit of brassy steamroller, while Ollie’s wife Lucille (Shirley Henderson) is mousy but just as formidable. There is one especially heartwarming moment in the middle of a show when Ollie’s health troubles look like they will incapacitate him, but he looks at Stan for support and they are able to carry on; meanwhile in the audience, Ida and Lucille become a unified front as they lock hands. That is the sort of unity of spirit you hope to find in any major personal endeavor.

Stan & Ollie is Recommended If You Like: The real Laurel and Hardy presumably, Low-key showbiz biopics

Grade: 3 out of 5 Top Hats

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