REVIEW: 'Stan & Ollie' is a heartwarming tale of friendship and the highs and lows of life on the road

PUBLISHED: 10:25 25 January 2019

John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy and Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel. Picture LIGHT CINEMA WISBECH

John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy and Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel. Picture LIGHT CINEMA WISBECH

Archant

Channelling the classic humour of one of the world’s most iconic comedy duos, Stan & Ollie is a heart-warming tale of friendship and a reminder that life on the road isn’t always so easy.

John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy and Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel. Picture LIGHT CINEMA WISBECHJohn C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy and Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel. Picture LIGHT CINEMA WISBECH

Recreating Stanley Laurel and Oliver Hardy’s original, simplistic slapstick sketches, and bringing their story to a new generation of cinema-goers as well as older audiences who’ll have grown up with Laurel & Hardy, it’s a well thought out and enlightening reflection on one of the trickier times in the pair’s lives.

British actor Steve Coogan (most known for playing Alan Partridge) is brilliant as Stan - an inspired writer whose constantly coming up with new scenes for them to perform - while America’s John C. Reilly (whose standout performance until now was in 2008’s ‘Step Brothers’) seems the perfect fit to play Ollie, often stealing the show with witty one-liners and telling facial expressions. And watching them bring Laurel & Hardy’s original camaraderie back to life has a timeless feel; the sketches are just as funny now as they were five decades ago.

Picking up some time into their career, it tells the story of some of Laurel & Hardy’s more difficult years on the road, playing to half-empty venues on a U.K. tour with the dream of a movie deal at the end of it all.

As they struggle to fill the theatres of post-war Britain, it’s a reminder of a fleeting sense of fame; but they soldier on - realising that getting in the papers is probably the quickest way to boost ticket sales, even roping in their wives for some publicity stunts as suggested by their oddly nice but subtly manipulative manager Bernard Delfont (played charmingly and business-minded by Rufus Jones).

John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy and Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel. Picture LIGHT CINEMA WISBECHJohn C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy and Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel. Picture LIGHT CINEMA WISBECH

The most heartening thing about the biographical movie (the perfect length at just over an hour and a half) is learning of the duo’s defiance to keep doing what they’re doing, inspired by comments from strangers and fans that “we’re so happy you’re still going strong after all these years”. As Ollie’s health problems start to unravel, there’s a touching scene which sees the two of them in bed reflecting on their career and what’s best for the future.

What’s portrayed effortlessly throughout, though, is their commitment and determination: they don’t want to let their fans or families down but, more than anything, they keep going because the stage is the one place where they felt happiest - and it really shines through thanks to Coogan and Reilly’s charismatic and endearing performances.

‘Stan & Ollie’ is now showing at The Light Cinema in Wisbech. For full screening dates, times and tickets visit www.wisbech.lightcinemas.co.uk/stan-and-ollie

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