Stan & Ollie, directed by Jon S. Baird, is a pleasantly endearing film. It makes you smile, it draws you into a bond and a friendship that is sweet and funny. It all makes for an experience I sat through and… happily enjoyed. But… with Stan & Ollie, I always got the sense that it was struggling to find a driving force that was overly compelling. While I liked my time with the film, it was never one that fully grasped my attention; I drifted from it a few times. My time spent with Stan & Ollie was mixed, and much like it, my path through this review will also be mixed. So, let’s get on with the review and see if those mixed opinions add up to a film worth seeing.
Based upon the true story, Stan & Ollie follows one of the worlds most famous comedy duos; Oliver Hardy – played by John C. Reilly – and Stan Laurel – played by Steve Coogan – as they try to reignite their career by doing a tour of Britain, with the hopes of sparking a new movie out of its success. However, not only will they struggle with the tour, but the bond that was once so strong between them will also begin to fracture and possibly fail.
Stan & Ollie was both a film I was looking forward to seeing and one that I enjoyed; the primary reason for that was its two-title characters and the actors playing them. And as I expected, it is them that makes the film anything worth enjoying.
The friendship, the bond, the strife between the two of them and the journey they go on throughout the movie is what had me slowly become emotionally invested in a double act – who just like everyone else – were not as happy and perfect as their on-screen personas suggested they were.
They were what drew me in and they were what kept me caring about a film that at quite a few times felt like it was struggling to keep any significant or noticeable amount of momentum.
The exploration of the two of them and the struggles they traverse – particularly on their final ever tour – makes for some significantly touching and poignant moments, and I do feel they’re all the more impactful if you have any connection or love for the comedy duo. I personally remember flicking channels as a much younger lad and coming across a marathon of a few of their films; stopping on them and just watching the simple, yet wholly creative and effective comedy that made them so renowned. I sat there for the rest of the day and watched them all, and never stopped loving watching the evolution and joy in their work.
Having that connection and that care was definitely a factor in why I think I was able to see passed the issues and find myself still wanting to engage with the film. And what made that connection to them all the stronger was the impactful performances by John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan. Yes, both actors struggle to maintain the accents they’re doing, but despite that, there’s an authenticity and a clear effort by both actors to embody the famous comedy duo. Both actors have definite standout scenes; moments where they pull all attention to them and completely control the moment, and it’s… moving to be a part of.
But, despite all my enjoyment and appreciation for the characters and the performances behind them; despite the times where I was gripped by emotion and wowed by the range shown be Steve Coogan, or the potency of Reilly’s outbursts; I still quite often found myself and my attention drifting away from the film.
Stan & Ollie is a perfectly fine film that just doesn’t ever reach a point where it feels its brought all the right pieces together and delivered on something it had meaningfully worked up too.
When the film had finished, and my friend and I were leaving the cinema, we were both of a similar overall opinion: it was perfectly enjoyable; an experience we were content with, but that it was never an experience that made an impact on us; that stuck with us and we were excited to explore and discuss. It was… in the end… fine.
I suppose I would recommend, Stan & Ollie, but only as a film you should at some point watch but not necessarily rush to see. If you’re eager to have a wee bit more of Laurel & Hardy in your life, then this film will give you a little of what you’re looking for, but beyond that, this is a film I’d seek out when it makes its way onto the steaming service of your choice and not any sooner.
What did you think of Stan & Ollie? What did you think of my review of it? Let me know anything and everything in the comments section down below. Like what you read? Feel free to follow me on Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. Lastly, I want to say thank you to you. You stopped by and gave my review a chance and I wholly appreciate that. So thank you for coming here and I hope you liked what you read enough to come back.