Say you had a piano that had to be taken up a narrow path on the side of a mountain, over a swaying rope bridge with only one rope handrail over an almost bottomless chasm, and delivered to a tree house on the other side. Who would you choose for the job? Well, based on their classic two-reeler “The Music Box,” I think you’d have to go with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. They had to take that damn piano up those damn stairs half a dozen times, but by golly, they eventually got it up there. That’s determination! Here, it’s the crowning funny moment in a movie that is, sadly, all too taken up with other people singing and crowds of people dancing. It’s like the Marx Brothers movies, where every time other people come on to further the hair-brained “plot,” or clear their tenor or soprano pipes with a forgettable song, I’m reaching for the remote to fast forward and get to the stuff I came here to see. Maybe this was necessary in 1938, mixing music with monkeyshines, but from today’s perspective every moment wasted on that stuff is a moment taken away from Stan and Ollie.
I don’t want to complain too much. The boys, when they are on stage, have some very nice bits, including trying to sell mousetraps to a cheese shop owner. They start drilling holes in the floor so the mice can get to the traps. Well, makes sense to me. Only Stan punctures a gas line, and suddenly there are flames popping up all over the place as they try to stomp them out.