I've been an avid fan of Laurel and Hardy since I was a child; I've read all the books, seen all their movies, and sung "Trail of the Lonesome Pine" on stage. I've even named my pet rats after them! So I was looking forward to seeing Stan & Ollie with anticipation and trepidation. The bulk of the film is set in 1953, with Stan (Steve Coogan) and Ollie (John C. Reilly) embarking on a tour of the UK. With the peak of their glittering Hollywood careers behind them, the duo, both getting on in years, setting on a surprisingly low-key tour of UK theatres.
But the movie begins in the heart of their stardom: 1937 in Culver City, on the set of Way out West, with a brilliant re-enactment of their famous soft-shoe shuffle, which is still seen today as a social media GIF!
A special mention to Sophie Wardlow who plays Laurel & Hardy's make up artist, and Keith MacPherson who makes a delightful cameo appearance as James Finlayson!
Fast forward 16 years, and theatre impresario Bernard Delfont (played with relish by Rufus Jones) has arranged a tour for the boys, which gets off to a low-key start. With the audiences sparse and the digs less than salubrious, the boys begin to wonder if they still have that star pulling power.
Norman Wisdom is the new kid on the block, and Abbot & Costello's movie career is going strong, and it isn't long before some long harboured differences between the boys begin to show through. They are joined on the tour by their wives Lucille Hardy (Shirley Henderson) and Ida Laurel (Nina Arianda) who, in themselves, are a double act to cherish!
Some additional promotional appearances do the trick and the crowds begin to turn up and the venues start to sell out - 'beautiful madness' as Bernard Delfont brilliantly describes it - but it also starts to take a toll on Ollie's health.
From this, the real heart of this movie emerges. Despite their disagreements, the deep-seated love they have for each other shines through, and they realise what they mean to each other as performers and friends.
Both Reilly and Coogan are immense, but Coogan deserves a special mention for his moving portrayal of Stan Laurel. Surely some awards will be coming his way.
Their stage shows brilliantly recreate some of the duos iconic sketches and songs, so there is a lot for fans to enjoy and revisit. Jeff Pope's screenplay and Jon S. Baird's direction make this movie happy, sad, joyous, and deeply moving and, as with the boys' own films, this movie will stay with me for a very long time.
Written by Garry Vaux