Arts & Leisure

“Stan & Ollie” salutes a gentler comedy

STEVE COOGAN (right) and John C. Reilly are “Stan & Ollie.”

By Jim Tortolano

“Stan & Ollie” is a small picture with a big heart.

Once the greatest comedy duo of the silver screen, the team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy has faded into the collective memory for all but a few oldsters and fans of classic films. However, this movie brings it all back to the present movie audience in a very pleasing way.

Written by Jeff Pope and directed by Jon S. Baird, ‘”S&O” does what a very good “biopic” should do: it gives us insight into the person(s) behind the celebrity and does so in an entertaining way.

Of course, what’s really needed to elevate this motion picture into something more than just nostalgia are performances in which the actors “become” the people they portray. This happens mightily with Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy.

After a few minutes, you begin – unconsciously – to think you are seeing the real thing, so faithfully do Coogan and Hardy reproduce each gesture, dance step, meaningful look and gag.

The movie starts with the two on their way to England on the downward arc of their career. It’s the early 1950s, and TV and action films have stolen the attention of the public away from the gentle tomfoolery of performers whose credits go all the way back to Charlie Chaplin and silent films.

Flashbacks and conversations provide context and carry the narrative forward.

There aren’t a lot of surprises here, really, but the true-as-life performances of the leads and the measured pacing of the film make this a small but valuable gem.

“Stan & Ollie” is rated PG for some language and smoking.

 

 

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