During the golden age of comedy in Hollywood, they were kings, but by 1953, although Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had made a successful transition from silent movies to talkies, a combination of age, changes in audience preferences, and stiff competition, had taken a toll on the career of this most famous comic duo. It is at this moment that British director Jon S. Baird focuses his “Stan & Ollie” with a script by Jeff Pope and remarkable performances by Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy.
The glory days are behind when the duo start their tour of Britain in 1953 while waiting for the response from a producer to make a new comedy based on the legend of Robin Hood. To understand one key element in the story, we are also taken to an episode in 1937 at the height of their career, when the duo had requested an increase in their earnings from a reluctant Hal Roach (Danny Huston) their producer in Hollywood. While Stan had been the more vocal in their economic demand, Oliver instead had kept a more subdued attitude –an episode that brought then an unpleasant situation which in turn would haunt them, years later.
“Stan & Ollie” captures very well the connection between the two men, the complex relationships they had with their respective wives, and especially, in the case of Stan, his staunch adherence to the defence of his integrity as an artist. One has to remember that those were the times when the studios had practically absolute control over the lives of their stars. This film is also a well-deserved tribute to the most talented comic duo in Hollywood (others such as Abbott and Costello tried later to imitate their style of comedy), comparable only to those great masters of the early Hollywood comedy: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. This movie will undoubtedly delight older audiences in search of some emotionally-charged look at a nostalgic past. However, younger audiences should certainly enjoy this film too because it would provide a glimpse into a form of mostly visual humour that didn’t have to rely on profanities or repetitive sexual references to make people laugh, as many comedians do today. It is then a movie recommended to all audiences, I am sure everyone will find something in the biopic of this comic duo, something to enjoy.
Running time: 97 min.