“Stan & Ollie” is showing at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor through mid-February.
By Andrew Warrick
Photo via Sony Picture Classics
“Stan & Ollie” begins in the late 1930s, when the comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were in their prime. It starts with one long intoxicating shot, like “Birdman,” through a classic Hollywood studio. It’s masterfully done and fully realizes the glitz of Hollywood. After these opening minutes of glamour, though, the movie cuts to the pair’s decline a little over a decade later.
After this jump, director Jon S. Baird steers more conventionally and never returns to that awe-inspiring feeling from the first scene. Laurel and Hardy are no longer the in-demand superstars they once were, and their relationship is beginning to show some cracks. The two men decide to take a tour through England in order to raise money and awareness for a movie that could regain at least some of their lost fame. They both want to return to their glory and see the tour as their last chance. It was the only gig they could get. Sadly, the crowds for their shows are tiny, and they have to fight the increasing fear that their time in the limelight has passed.
Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly perfectly embody these characters. Both the uninformed and the biggest Laurel and Hardy fans will find them both uproarious and emotionally affecting. A charming highlight are the painstaking recreations of Laurel and Hardy’s performances. The movie even gives life to an unfilmed, final project, which is a treat. It’s a masterful imaging of their work and has enough authenticity and charm to keep it from being an imitation.
The script does make use of some typical “buddy comedy” clichés and slapstick that becomes tedious. Yet it’s hard to fault it for being conventional when it hits almost all the right emotional and comedic notes. Coogan and Reilly turn what could have been run of the mill to something much more. Though nothing new, “Stan and Ollie” is a heartfelt, hilarious story about aging and friendship.
“Stan & Ollie”
603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor
Showing through at least Feb. 14
Andrew Warrick is a student at the University of Michigan. He is majoring in creative writing and history, and is a part of the Residential College. He also leads the RC’s Creative Writing Forum. When not watching movies, he loves hanging out with friends, especially in the spectacular Ann Arbor, becoming addicted to novels, and listening to Bowie records. Some of his favorite movies are “Cloud Atlas,” “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “Twin Peaks: The Return,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Alien.”