Surprisingly, to myself anyway, Laurel & Hardy are names that not many can identify. Especially for people in my generation but, at the same time, I’m also not surprised. How many people would know a comedy duo from the black and white silent era who then defined themselves again in a new generation of cinematic presentation of colour and sound? I have come to understand now that I’m in the rare group of ‘youngsters’ that recognize, and so appreciate, Laurel & Hardy even to this day. Fortunately for me I was able to grow-up watching loads of old VHS tapes of the classic Laurel & Hardy films and compilations. Immediately when this film began I was entertained and in awe; looking back now I feel very lucky to have experienced Laurel & Hardy at such a young age.
Once I heard about ‘Stan & Ollie’, of course there was excitement that these two men would be brought back to life once again and on to the big screen. On the other hand, I was very wary of anybody playing the iconic figures who, I deem at least, helped to shape what we call entertainment today. Despite this initial reluctance to view anybody else as Stan & Ollie, once I saw the first images and videos of John C Reilly and Steve Coogan as the comedy duo, it felt like I was transformed back into my six year old self and immediately felt at ease. After that moment, all reservations were chucked out of the window and I enabled myself to indulge and enjoy seeing them all over again. With that said I have come to realise that this is almost a love letter to Laurel & Hardy…I suppose it is!
‘Stan & Ollie’ is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful film. Just as I expected, John C Reilly and Steve Coogan are perfect in their roles and allow for Stan and Ollie to be brought back to life once again, which personally is an incredible. Unashamedly, I sat in my local cinema, alone, on the opening day of release and allowed myself to fall back in love and really take in what Reilly and Coogan do. It’s not just the accents, or the look that they get right, it’s absolutely everything. You forget that its actors playing them; which is exactly how a piece of acting should make you feel. The chemistry is key in this film and you have the two leads to thank for that.
Even though I have watched a lot of their movies, I was blissfully unaware of the struggles that Laurel and Hardy went through long after their heyday in Hollywood on the silver screen. The film starts off displaying the power and talent that they had and highlighted how well respected they were. Skip forward a number of years, and the film covers a difficult time for the comedy duo as they embark on a nationwide tour of the UK recreating old sketches live on stage. Their life had gone from being seen by millions in Hollywood on the big screen to performing to an underwhelming crowd in Blackpool, England (if you know England you would know they were scraping the bottom of the barrel here! Sorry Blackpool!). We proceed to follow them through times of challenge for both their patience and their physical wellbeing as, not only do they battle live performances, but also have to learn to bury old arguments in order to move forward.
I honestly can’t fault this film at all. I would like to think that even if you haven’t experienced Laurel & Hardy before that you would still find a connection with the characters and enjoy the film. For myself and any fans of these two magnificent people, I implore you to go and see this film. I’ve always had a soft spot for them but this really brought back that love of Laurel & Hardy and threw me back to simpler times when I was a kid, watching the old movies of Stan & Ollie with my dear, late Grandfather.