By Megan Bianco
In a perplexing awards season in which the movies with the most hype and praise seem to not be winning the most awards, Jon S. Baird’s Hollywood biopic Stan & Ollie is also becoming overlooked. The title refers to iconic comedy duo Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy and stars Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as the leads. While a lot of biopics on legends tend to be stereotypically tragic, Stan & Ollie has to be one of the most wholesome ones made.
The film flips back and forth between 1937—the year Laurel and Hardy first split up—and 1953—their final year together as a duo. We see how divided the partners were on working with longtime producer Hal Roach (Danny Huston), and how even their wives, Lucille (Shirley Henderson) and Ida (Nina Arianda), clash with personal opinions as well. But while working on a U.K. stage tour to revamp their film careers, Stan and Ollie discover that they can still make people laugh.
No drug addictions, romantic woes or tragic deaths are to be found in Stan & Ollie’s 90-minute runtime. There isn’t even a love scene or foul language, making it surprisingly appropriate for most age groups. Baird paints an homage to not only a long-term partnership but to one of the closest friendships in show business history. Coogan and Reilly really make it clear on screen how much they respect the comedy icons, and the prosthetics used to subtly alter their features to look more like the real men is impressive. Henderson and Arianda also give entertaining performances as the female support. For a sweet, charming time at the theater, Stan & Ollie wins.