STAN AND OLLIE gets 7.5/10 Comeback to comedy

Directed by Jon S. Baird
Starring Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda, Danny Huston


The story of comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, known to their close ones as Stan and Ollie, has now been rendered in this delightful film, whose heart-warming sentimentality succeeds in having more resonating power than its contemporary biopics of a similar ilk. It gets better and more emotionally engaging as it goes on, most likely due to how appropriate of a light tone it strikes, even when the various interferences to their craft arise.

But this is not a biopic of the duo at the height of their fame, but instead when they tried to regain it, particularly from those who exploited their talents. Set in the early 50s, Stan (Steve Coogan) and Ollie (John C. Reilly) work their way through a series of shows in England, reminding their fans that they are still not retired, all the while trying to raise funds for what may be one last film in their dwindling filmography.

Stan and Ollie keeps a close eye on their friendship when it’s in its disintegration stages, particularly at the two instances when each of them try and fail to continue the Laurel and Hardy team with a new partner. It takes a delicate look at their struggles, never heaping on the conflicts, but taking an even-handed look from both of their perspectives.

Perhaps more importantly, it takes an even broader look at their comedy process, specifically their own take on the popular Robin Hood series at the time (which never materialised, but some of it has been created for this film). It’s great to see how these artists seemingly could never turn off their work, trading and practicing skits even during their down times in hotel rooms or local pubs.

Reilly as Ollie does seem to have more drama and conflict to work with than Coogan, as his health issue has him endlessly pondering and reconsidering the notion of going back on stage despite the doctor’s warning. Similarly, Shirley Henderson also has more tension to delve into while she’s by her ill husband’s side, being the more emotional support role whereas Nina Arianda plays the more comedic supporting role as Stan’s wife.

This is the biopic the two deserved, not one covering their successes, but one depicting their struggles to reignite their stagnating popularity. Still focusing more on their joys than their slumps, Stan and Ollie can’t help but leave you feeling cheery, whether you’re a fan of the duo or not.