Review: STAN & OLLIE Dances Its Way Into Your Heart

FIRST IMPRESSION

Although a bit surface-level, Stan & Ollie is a compelling biopic driven by two great performances and some excellent work behind the cameras.
Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

Stan & Ollie is a new biopic depicting the last years of famous comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. The film stars Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as the iconic pair as they attempt to restart their careers with a grueling theatrical tour. It debuted at the BFI London Film Festival and played at AFI Fest to a positive reception.

This movie’s story is pretty simple, but handled in a way so elegant that it works very well. Yes, it is mostly a straightforward presentation of events, but the film also spends time exploring the characters and the impact the story has on them. The script definitely could have spared to go deeper, but it is an interesting and enjoyable portrait of two great entertainers nonetheless.

The movie was also limited by its PG rating. There is no need for this to be rated R, but a PG-13 rating could have been beneficial to allow the film to explore some of the mature aspects of the characters’ story. For example, the script hints at Laurel’s struggle with alcoholism and Hardy’s many divorces, but it could have done much more with these subplots if it had more freedom.

stan and ollie toast
Left to right: John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy, Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel. Photo by Nick Wall, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

That being said, the movie is still extremely successful because of the amount of heart that it has. Laurel and Hardy are both made to be highly sympathetic, and we want to see them succeed. They are goofy and lovable — just like they were in the movies in which they appeared. The script also contains quite a few moments with a lot of emotional resonance that will cause the audience to sympathize with the characters even more.

The two lead performances are great. Although they don’t necessarily “become” Laurel and Hardy, Coogan and Reilly do an excellent job of pulling off their personalities. The chemistry that the two have together is great, being the main factor that pulls the film together. The scenes in which they are just goofing around off-stage are some of the most enjoyable parts of the movie.

stan and ollie hardy
Left to right: John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy. Photo by Aimee Spinks, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

However, the most impressive parts of the film are the recreations of the classic Laurel and Hardy bits. Their classic dancing routine is recreated quite well, and the credits show the actual performance by Laurel and Hardy for the sake of comparison. Since the movie creates so many of these classic gags, it is able to elicit quite a few chuckles throughout its runtime.

The film is also quite well-made on a technical level. The cinematography is fabulous, with some of the best tracking shots of the year, especially the one in the opening sequence. The production design, makeup, and hairstyling are all quite good too, doing a solid job of periodizing the movie.

Overall, Stan & Ollie was an entertaining and well-made film. The excellent performances, great comedy, and touching story make it one that deserves your attention.

Stan & Ollie is now playing in select theaters and expands January 25.

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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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