Cast: Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston
Director: Jon S. Baird
One of the final Oscar-season releases to get a wide release, Stan & Ollie shows us what John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan can do when they aren’t tied down to dumpy projects like Holmes & Watson. These two are master class actors who have an almost perfect range of both comedic and dramatic ability these two have and they can absolutely command any scene either of them are in. While Stan & Ollie might have walked away empty-handed from various awards ceremonies, that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad movie. A perfectly average narrative with strong performances from the two lead actors, Stan & Ollie isn’t perfect, but at least it’s fun enough to take your mind off things for a while.
The film follows Stan Laurel (Coogan) and Ollie Hardy (Reilly), two of the biggest comedians during the golden age of Hollywood. Now in the later stages of their lives, the two go over to the United Kingdom and Ireland to perform live and show to movie studios that they still have an audience that will watch an adaptation of Robin Hood that the duo is working on. While this proves to be a struggle, details about their friendship emerge that could very seriously jeopardize the duo’s future together. The main thing that drives this movie are the two lead performances. Reilly in particular gives an incredible physical performance, as his ordinarily normal frame is nowhere to be seen behind prosthetics that make as obese as the real Ollie Hardy. Through Reilly’s sweat pouring off his body during dance numbers to the way he constantly eats, Reilly embraced this role and put everything into it, which is no surprise based on his track record. Coogan on the other hand plays a more mellow, calculated Stan Laurel and while his performance is not nearly as physical as Reilly’s, I would argue we learn more about his goals and ambitions and as a result, we can identify with him more on an emotional level. Combine these two performances with a solid supporting role from Henderson as Ollie’s wife Lucille and you have a cast that you know cares deeply about the film they’re in. The main drawback of the movie though is the story. Even though the characters are all funny and charming, the plot is pretty typical and I think the majority of people watching it will know exactly how it goes before it happens. When you know everything that’s about to occur, it automatically makes the film feel like it drags regardless of the actual runtime. The runtime of Stan & Ollie is a mere 97 minutes, so while this should feel like no time at all has passed, I found myself waiting for the film to just end already. No amount of fun can make up for a story that doesn’t feel inspired, and while there’s a solid foundation for us to care about these characters, the traditional linear storyline removes any sort of real interest from the movie and prevents it from reaching that next level of acclaim.
Overall, Stan & Ollie is almost the perfect example of a, “good, but not great,” movie. The performances alone make this movie worth a watch, but if you’re looking for groundbreaking story or technical aspects, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Good for a few laughs and an entertaining couple of performances, Stan & Ollie, is not the greatest movie ever made, but it should be able to entertain most of the people watching it. When you take a handful of 10/10 performances and put them in a movie with a 5/10 story, you’ll end up with a movie that’s somewhere in the middle, which is exactly what we got here.
Overall Score: 7.5/10