It gives Steve Coogan one of his finest screen roles to date and for Reilly, it’s another triumph right on the heels of “The Sisters Brothers.” Whether you adore Laurel and Hardy or have never seen them in action, this film celebrates both the artist and the tenacity it takes to remain one.
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At its best, Stan & Ollie shows how the private and personal dimensions of art are achingly inseparable.
Featuring uncanny and hugely personable performances by Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel, and John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy, and a smart script by Jeff Pope (Coogan’s co-writer on Philomena) that delivers laughs from both familiar and unexpected quarters, this is a fond, frequently very funny homage to an act that has lost none of its genius.
Stan & Ollie salutes an under-appreciated comedy duo while exploring the hardships of fading into the limelight; appropriately, the movie itself is rather forgettable even as the actors deliver brilliant performances in every scene.
The film’s confidence falters only when it transposes the hapless slapstick of the duo’s screen act to their everyday reality. If a couple of labored gags around hauling luggage don’t fully land, that rather proves how much more art went into Laurel and Hardy’s craft than they ever chose to let on.
It’s not a terrible time at the movies, but after Coogan & Pope’s previous collaboration on “Philomena” proved to be such a genuinely satisfying example of this kind of drama, it’s hard not to feel like there’s something of a missed opportunity here, a film truly deserving of the excellent performances at its centre.
These are brilliant impersonations, the kind that can only be achieved by exceptionally intelligent actors; the superb technique of both is matched by their obvious love for the originals.
It is eccentric, sad and stirring to the core. Oh yes – and incredibly funny, too.
Everything the film has to offer is obvious and on the surface, its pleasures simple and sincere under the attentive guidance of director Jon S. Baird.
Stan & Ollie muddles up the history a bit, as all biopics do, but it’s a film without any meaningful flaws. Every character is wonderfully realized, every performance is spectacular. You’ll laugh all the way through, you’ll cry by the end, and you’ll see the brilliance of Laurel & Hardy come back to life via the very same cinematic magic that made them legends in the first place.