Hollywood has seen many iconic comedy duos throughout time: Bop Hope & Bing Crosby, Gene Wilder & Richard Pryor, Simon Pegg & Nick Frost - but none more iconic than Laurel & Hardy. John C Riley slaps on the prosthetics whilst Steve Coogan tries to shake off Alan Partridge in Jon S. Baird's tender biopic Stan & Ollie. Poles apart from his previous offering, dirty crime drama Filth, Baird takes a far gentler approach with his latest feature. Laurel and Hardy - past their heyday - set to reignite their careers on a nostalgic theatre tour across Britain.
This delightful double act will charm your socks off but their mediocre show lacks the same pizzazz. Riley turns in what is arguably the performance of his career, his portrayal of Ollie Hardy is delicate, humble and certainly understated. Though not quite as compelling Coogan is perfectly acceptable if slightly underwhelming as Stan Laurel, other great additions to the cast include Shirley Henderson as Lucile Hardy who dons a brilliant Texan accent. Yet despite all this, without some really great performances Stan & Ollie is just another bland, by the books biopic.
Moving on from his catalogue of Will Ferrell buddy comedy movies Riley wows in arguably the most sophisticated role we've seen from him. He adds the small touches like Hardy's precise hand waves and gentle voice, that in the end prove very effective. Coogan counters this charisma with an abrasive though compassionate portrayal of Stan Laurel. Even though Riley makes more of the character, it's still a nice change of pace for the Alpha Papa actor.
Baird's decidedly heartwarming drama has its fair share of charming moments - re-staging some of the comedy duo's most iconic skits, but for the most part the movie lacks real character. Stan & Ollie falls into the large box of conventional BBC dramas, there is very little to write home about when it comes to style and storytelling. The camerawork is somewhat limited - we hastily walk through the 30's before fast forwarding to 50's London, but there are hardly any remarkable frames that provoke their sense of showmanship. Maybe that's just a personal preference - I'm sure hard-core Laurel and Hardy fans will be swept away with nostalgia but otherwise the film is pretty lacklustre.
Stan & Ollie is pleasant though unremarkable; these two Hollywood legends should have been placed in a grander and more cinematic feature, one that really underlines their heavy influence in the industry. This is definitely a high point for Riley's career, demonstrating that the comedy actor does indeed have range. Otherwise, Stan & Ollie is missing the spark of the comedy duo and their legacy doesn't really shine.
Stan & Ollie:
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.