Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Stan and Ollie

(UK/Canada/USA, 2018)

The make-up jobs on Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy is just uncanny. Particularly Reilly, who is not a fat man, but you wouldn’t know it from the quivering jowls and deep-set eyes we see. The acting is very good, too. I kept thinking, it was a shame they didn’t pick some other point in the careers of the greatest comedy team of all time. They were going for sad poignancy, and they achieved it, but I would have liked it much better if it were a salute to their genius, seeing them in their heyday.

They are near the end, and have gone to England to play live shows on the pantomime circuit. At first they draw almost no crowds. (Is that real? Hard for me to imagine that Brits could be that stupid.) Eventually they are packing the houses. But Ollie is getting fatter and fatter, worse and worse physically. And the sadness doesn’t really work well with the comedy they are doing, in my opinion, anyway.

But I can’t put it all down. The centerpiece of the movie is a re-creation of what I believe to be their best scene ever: The dance to “At the Ball, That’s All,” from Way Out West. I simply cannot possibly describe the sheer genius of that scene. A group of cowboys are yodeling this tune outside a saloon, and Stan and Ollie listen for a while … and then, slowly, begin to dance. And it is wonderful. Big fat Ollie tripping the light fantastic, floating like a feather, and Stan accompanying him … it is way beyond genius. It has nothing at all to do with the plot, it’s just a little bit they threw in for free. I’m including a link. Treat yourself!

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