REVIEW: “Stan & Ollie” is a delightful film about friendship and fame

Stan and his friend Oliver were once the most famous comedy duo in the world.

But that was 16 years ago, when they had weathered the death of silent films to become successful in feature-length sound movies, too.

It is now 1953, and the tandem known as Laurel and Hardy have embarked on a multi-city tour of Europe for a series of live shows, where they’ll perform their hilarious acts for fans and newcomers alike. Who knows? They may win another movie deal out of it.

If only people would come.

The first few shows are less than half full. The hotels, too, are unremarkable. Stan and Oliver are accustomed to big rooms and bellboys, but the budget only allows basic amenities. They’ll have to carry their own luggage.

“I thought you had retired,” one hotel employee tells them.

It seems people nowadays prefer the newer comedy duo: Abbott and Costello.

Yet something extraordinary happens as their tour progresses. Word begins spreading. Theaters begin filling. Stan and Oliver are funnier than ever.

Maybe they will get a movie deal. And maybe they’ll learn to become true friends in the twilight of their careers.  

The film Stan & Ollie (PG) expands nationwide this weekend, telling us the story of the popular comedic team as they try and revive their aging careers. It stars Oscar nominee Steve Coogan (Despicable Me 2 and 3) as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly (Wreck-It Ralph), another Oscar nominee, as the hefty Oliver Hardy.

The movie tells the story of two men who had little more than a working relationship in their younger lives but grew to appreciate one another as their careers were ending and they were running out of money.

It is among the funniest films I’ve seen, and proves once again that the most creative humor is the cleanest humor. Coogan and Reilly are spectacular.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)




Minimal. We see women in one-piece swimsuits in a “bathing beauty” contest.

Coarse Language

Minimal: A– (3), d–n (2), h-ll (1). Also: dear G-d (2).

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Several characters drink and smoke. One character places a bet over the phone.

Positive Elements/Life Lessons

Stan and Oliver provide lessons on bitterness, forgiveness and forgiveness.

At the heart of their divide: Oliver’s decision to get a different comedy partner years earlier when Stan was holding out for a bigger contract.

“You betrayed me,” Stan says.

Oliver responds, “You loved Laurel and Hardy, but you never loved me”

But by the movie’s end, they reconcile and have a close friendship. It’s touching to watch.


Our society worships fame. It’s at the heart of popular music, gossip magazines, television sports, and Hollywood movies. But just like that easily distracted dog in Up (“squirrel!”), our attention span is brief. The only thing we like more than celebrities is new celebrities.

Laurel and Hardy didn’t lose fans by becoming less funny. No, the public simply moved on to something else. At their pinnacle, most Americans knew who they were. Nowadays, very few do.

Fame, like everything else in life, is fleeting. James tells us that our lives are like “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

The things of this world don’t last. Instead of compiling treasure on earth, our focus should be on eternal matters — treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).  

What Works

The comedy, which required practice and impeccable timing, works. We don’t hear a single curse word in their show, but it’s funnier than anything on Netflix.

What Doesn’t

Not applicable.

Discussion Questions

  1. What made Laurel and Hardy so funny?
  2. What can we learn about fame and popularity from their story?
  3. What can we learn about forgiveness and friendship?

Entertainment rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG for some language, and for smoking.

TEXAN Correspondent
Michael Foust
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