REVIEW: ‘Stan and Ollie’ is a marvelous tale about friendship

Laurel and Hardy were one of the top comedy duo’s of the 1900s. But Hardy and Langdon? No so much. That forgotten tandem lasted one movie.

Still, Stan Laurel — in the new movie Stan & Ollie (PG) — can’t seem to forgive his larger sidekick for briefly forming a new partnership, even if it was due to contractual disputes and pressure from their producer, Hal Roach. And even if it took place roughly 14 years ago.

It’s among the best films I’ve watched over the past year, and one of the funniest, too. Laurel and Hardy don’t curse a single time in their shows, but their act is funnier than anything you’ll watch on Netflix’s many raunch-fests.

“You betrayed me,” Laurel tells Oliver Hardy.

Hardy, though, is having none of it.

“You loved Laurel and Hardy, but you never loved me,” Hardy shoots back.

Stan & Ollie, which expands nationwide this weekend, tells the story of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in the twilight of their career, years after they were the talk of the nation during the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. The duo were kings of silent films and then successfully made the transition to feature-length sound movies, but were pushed aside by a public that wanted something else.

By 1953, when the film is set, acts like Abbott and Costello were more popular.

So, Laurel and Hardy embark on a multi-city tour of Europe, where they will perform their comedy routine in front of a live audience, and stay in less-than-stellar hotels. That’s what the budget allows.

Theaters initially are less than half full, but once word gets out, every seat is filled. Their goal is to revive their careers and to land a major motion picture, too. To do that, Laurel must convince a London studio head that they’re worth the risk.

But when tragedy strikes one of them, their plans are put in jeopardy.

Stan & Ollie stars Steve Coogan (Despicable Me 2 and 3) as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly (Wreck-It Ralph) — who had to wear a “fat suit” — as Oliver Hardy. Both men are outstanding.

It’s among the best films I’ve watched over the past year, and one of the funniest, too. Laurel and Hardy don’t curse a single time in their shows, but their act is funnier than anything you’ll watch on Netflix’s many raunch-fests. They were creative. We need acts like them today.

The film succeeds thanks, in part, to what it teaches us: fame is fleeting (James 4:14, 1 Peter 1:24) and friendship is priceless.

Early in their careers, Laurel and Hardy were on posters and billboards across the nation. Yet they weren’t friends.

That changed as they aged, grew wiser and forgave one another. We see that in Stan & Ollie. It’s fun to watch.

Stan & Ollie contains no violence or sexuality and only mild language: a– (3), d–n (2), h-ll (1). Also: dear G-d (2).

Entertainment rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG for some language, and for smoking.

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