A bromance that provides serious performances from two comedic actors. 

Stan and Ollie directed by Jon S. Baird follows famed comedy duo Laurel and Hardy on a tour through Europe at the end of their careers. The film stars Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy. The movie begins, however, 15 years earlier, as the two comedians have a fallout while Laurel is trying to negotiate a new contract with the studio. Hardy doesn’t show up for the contract negotiation and makes a film with someone else. Skip ahead, and the two have aged and are both in need of some money. They both believe during this tour they will obtain funding from a producer for a new film, a Robin Hood parody they want to shoot at the end of their run of live shows.

Both Coogan and Reilly do excellent impersonations of Laurel and Hardy but in watching them they come across as just that – impersonations. They don’t come across as actual people. Reilly in a fat suit is sweating and limping while Coogan moves from one of Laurel’s facial impressions to another. When put in the context of the film, however, it makes a bit more sense of two people who are playing characters, playing characters of characters. Especially in the era that the film takes place where the public expects movie and TV personalities to be like the characters they play on the screen. They show this within the film when Hardy comments on Laurel’s bits he is continually doing in real life as they travel together.

Maybe it is my modern sense of comedy or what I think is funny, or maybe it is the way this film is shot, but I often felt while watching the scenes of the two doing bits, that the bits weren’t that amusing. The dance number used multiple times throughout the film for example. Yes, somewhat entertaining, but funny? The films entertaining moments happen mostly when the wives arrive, played by Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda. The catty behavior and attitudes the women have towards each other and those they meet were by far the most entertaining part of this film and what make it worth watching.

Is this film a historical drama, a dramedy, a tragedy, parody, or something else? I’m not sure. Is the film good? Yes, it is. Do I think it deserves the Oscar that Baird is obviously after? No.

  • Director: Jon S. Baird
  • Written by: Jeff Pope
  • Starring:  John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan
  • Rated: PG
  • Running Time: 1 hour and 37 minutes
  • Production Budget: $10,000,000 est.
  • Release Date: December 2018

Review by Milo Denison, the author of “How to Manage Your Manager” available now.