By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Director Jon S. Baird
and screenwriter Jeff Pope’s
new biopic, “Stan & Ollie”
is a delightful tribute to the slapstick comedy duo, Laurel and Hardy who became legendary Hollywood stars during the 1920s through 1950s.
John C. Reilly (“Ralph Breaks the Internet”) is superb as the portly and gregarious Oliver Hardy and Steve Coogan astonishes capturing all the bumbling mannerisms of Stan Laurel.
Yet, these actors go beyond mere impersonations of Laurel and Hardy. While the movie showcases a few their classic routines--like their famous dance in 1937’s “Way Out West”-- the film also peels back the layers and gives audiences a revealing look at what made these guys click both on and off stage.
Over the years, they became best friends. However, like any friendship or relationship, situations developed that tested them on the road to stardom.
“Stan & Ollie” opens showing the men at the top of their game in 1937. They are guided by the firm hand of their producer boss, Hal Roach (an excellent Danny Huston, TV’s “Yellowstone”). Over time, Laurel tries to convince Hardy to part ways with Roach since he believes they can do better and make more money without him.
However, there were reasons Roach led with an iron fist and placed a “morals clause” in Laurel and Hardy’s contracts. Hardy tended to blow through much of his earnings gambling which didn’t sit well with his wife Lucille (Shirley Henderson, TV’s “The ABC Murders”).
Laurel was married too. His wife is played by Nina Arianda from TV’s “Goliath." But he was also a party animal who loved women. That may have spawned his famous and funny line, “I’m never getting married again. I’m just going to find a woman I don’t like and buy her a house.”
Laurel and Hardy rode their wave of popularity as long as they could. Although they attempted a comeback in Britain led by promoter Bernard Delfront (Rufus Jones, TV’s “Urban Myths” ) it just wasn’t the same.
In addition, audiences started slowly moving away from their brand of comedy and on to the next phase of funny from comedians like Abbott and Costello.
Reilly earned a deserving Golden Globe nomination (“Best Actor, Movie or Comedy”) for his performance in “Stan & Ollie.”
The movie, which had a limited release during Christmas, still seems to be finding its way. It opens wider Jan. 25.
Whether you’re a fan of slapstick comedy or simply have an appreciation of the Golden Age of Hollywood, “Stan & Ollie” captures this bygone era with plenty of reverence, style and humor.
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Check Out This Trailer For "STAN & OLLIE"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of The Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.