The affectionate dramatisation from the lives of the one of Hollywood’s greatest comedy double acts from director Jon S Baird is a rather wonderful showcase for the very talented Steve Coogan and John C Reilly. This tale about the genius of Laurel and Hardy focuses on their post Hollywood years with their stars waning and unable to get another picture deal, they end up agreeing to do a theatrical tour of England as they are now both strapped for cash …… the oft-married Hardy has large alimony payments to keep up with
Even the tour is a disappointment for the pair when they discover they have been booked to play second rate venues and are put up in rether shabby boarding houses. It’s the 1950’s and it’s been 15 years since they made their last move together so people think they are retired or even worse, dead. So even in these small venues they have trouble attracting audiences and wily UK promoter Bernard Delfont (Rufus Jones) is too busy promoting his new homegrown star Norman Wisdom to pay much attention to them.
Delfont talks the pair into doing some cheesy local PR stunts at each of the towns they play, and this does eventually result in them playing packed houses, and a promise of a 2 week run at London’s Lyceum Theater.
This is the cue for Stan, the more businesslike of the duo, to finally track down the elusive Brit Film Producer who was supposedly getting the finance together for a new movie. Now the pair are back in the limelight, its also time to have their wives travel over from the US to stay with them in London’s swanky Savoy Hotel.
It is the genuine camaraderie of Laurel and Hardy that shines through in every scene. Despite their differences they were not just working partners but very good friends, and as such always managed to find a way to get over any disagreements they may have had. They both died over 60 years ago so their success and fame may not resound with younger audiences at all, but this film will definitely make people want to know more about them on and off the screen.
Reilly in his custom made fat suit has the genial Hardy off to a tee, but he and Coogan playing Laurel do so much more than attempt to just impersonate these men, and they successfully captured their very essence. They obviously had a great deal of fun making this film, and that comes over in every nuance of their performances.
Kudos to the wives too, Shirley Henderson with her squeaky voice played Hardy’s doting latest wife, and the wonderful Tony Award winning actress Nina Arianda played Laurel’s gravelly voiced ex-dancer spouse.