Stan & Ollie (PG)
This is a truly wonderful film. The performances are awesomely fine by Steve Coogan as Laurel and John C. Reilly as Hardy. Reilly, in fact, is nearly unrecognizable as himself as he brings off his totally believable impression of Oliver Hardy. Shirley Henderson as Lucille Hardy has a highly unusual voice—she almost sounds like a voice-over rabbit or squirrel—but brings off the role as Hardy’s last and most helpful wife with sparkles. Nina Arianda, on the other hand, is a statuesque blonde with a strong Ukrainian accent who plays Ida Kitaeva Laurel. The two wives do not hit it off well, being so different, united only in their fierce loyalty to their husbands.
There is a cloud surrounding the famous pair as Hardy, because of his contract with Hal Roach, was forced to play a role in a film about an elephant without Laurel and Laurel resents it fiercely. Faced with the same choice later as Hardy falls ill in Ireland, he has a lot of difficulty facing the billing of “Laurel and Cook.”
The whole idea of the tour that they entered upon in their sixties was to resurrect their film careers with a production of “Robin Hood.” Stan works on the script almost the entire film even though he and Ollie and we know from the start that the film will
be a non-starter. Ollie puts it best: “People just don’t want to see Laurel and Hardy movies anymore.”
There is a huge demographic gap operating as well: Young people don’t recognize or react to standard bits by the actors—Laurel’s fussing with his hair or his famous hat tricks. They look on blankly and it tears your heart out to see it happen. In fact,
much of this film rips at your heart as you see the ending before it ends. It is tragic, but probably a necessary fact of show business.
The thing is, as the film portrays, Laurel and Hardy were still funny on stage, doing bits created for the stage and recreations of scenes from their films. Hardy’s gripe with his partner goes deeper than a role in a movie: “You loved ‘Laurel and Hardy,’” he charges, “but you never loved me.”
The tragedy of the film is the fact that, as the duo softened and agreed to do personal appearances before their shows, they began to draw capacity crowds and were greeted by a near-riot in Ireland. Their careers ended in triumph but also tragedy, forced by Hardy’s lifestyle.
I frankly loved this film, sad as most of it is, because we sense the end of the story coming from the beginning when they had to start touring. The performances are award-worthy and I can’t wait to see this film again, it’s that rich.
Get your kids familiar with the King Arthur legends before they see this one because many of those legends are at the basis of this film for kids. It stars the son of famed action movie star Andy Serkis, Louis Ashbourne Serkis as Alex, the Kid in question. He accidentally pulls a long sword out of a stone and thus becomes “The Kid Who Would Be King.”
That happens just in time because he’s been assaulted on his school campus by Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris) and he’s tired of it. Dean Chaumoo plays Alex’s best friend, Bedders, also a victim of bullying by the same duo.
Soon the four of them are off in pursuit of whatever King Arthur should be doing, guided by Merlin (Angus Imrie) who has the longest neck of any actor now in the business! Merlin comes in mysteriously and often turns himself into an owl when not clicking his fingers in strange patters and causing life to change. Patrick Stewart comes in occasionally as old Merlin as well.
The kids have all the usual Arthurian challenges plus a few more: a student body who laughs when Alex claims to be the king—at least they laugh until he pulls the sword from another stone! Feats of magic mark the adventures and they are wonderfully realized in this fantasy for kids. Alex is only 12 so the demographic appeal is very wide. Adults might enjoy the special effects
while the kids will probably wonder if that was the way it was in Arthur’s time. Kids: It wasn’t.