Two of the most adored comedy acts, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, return to the big screen this year with ‘Stan and Ollie’. Starring Steve Coogan and John C. Riley, ‘Stan and Ollie’ is not your typical narrative-based film but instead shows a behind-the-scenes perspective of the two comedic legends as they prepare to tour the UK. I rarely find these types of releases of much interest but with ‘Stan and Ollie’ it pays off tremendously with a phenomenal cast and creative approach to the story we never knew until now.
Immediately, Coogan and Riley’s performances as Stan and Ollie blew me away from start to finish. If you closed your eyes and listened you most likely wouldn’t notice much difference from the original Stan and Ollie; the level accuracy regarding tones of voices, facial expressions and, most famously, stupidity that made the two so famous felt like I was watching one of the original Laurel and Hardy TV performances. Although it took time getting used to seeing them as themselves and not as a TV comedy duo. It was still most fascinating to see what their friendship looked like off the camera.
Throughout the film, Stan and Ollie set off on their UK tour performing some of their most memorable moments from their career including their western dance routine, causing havoc with Ollie’s broken leg in a hospital and waiting at a train station Stan and Ollie style! But tears of laughter soon turn into tears of sadness and despair as Ollie’s health takes a sudden turn for the worst and puts the rest of the tour and his relationship with Stan in jeopardy. As heart-breaking as it was to potentially see the end of such a strong friendship between the two fellows, these moments were eventually forgotten by both Stan and Ollie who were determined to finish the tour together not just as work partners but true friends.
With ‘Stan and Ollie’ being more of a documentary movie than anything else, it creates the balance between true friendship and serious business partners that make the behind-the-scenes perspective so believable. Coogan and Riley's performance as Stan and Ollie couldn't be more fitting and the throwback to their most beloved moments during their stage performances defined what made them such an iconic duo, to begin with.